Service First rescheduled for day after fall W.I.L.D., two others
With the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac looming in the forecast for Labor Day weekend, staff members of the Community Service Office (CSO) met with the University’s Emergency Management Coordinator, Mark Bagby, in the days leading up to Service First to discuss their options.
Bagby, a committee of CSO staff, Director of Campus Police Don Strom and other administrators and officials decided to postpone the event.
“I think the agreement amongst the committee was that, first and foremost, the safety of the students is paramount,” Bagby said. “Secondary, we want them to have a good experience with this, and with the way the weather was forecasted, it would not have been a good experience for everybody.”
According to Shiloh Venable, coordinator for community service, the decision was not an easy one to make.
“[The decision] was really hard because it’s such a big part of the campus culture and really sets the tone for the spirit of service on campus, it’s a great bonding activity for floors and it also starts the year in the schools that we work with really well,” she said. “But we knew that we could do it better if we decided to reschedule.”
Once the decision was made, the CSO staff began work on rescheduling the event, coordinating with the program’s partner schools to find alternate dates.
Three consecutive Saturdays were eventually decided upon: Sept. 29, Oct. 6 and Oct. 13.
Venable noted that the biggest day of the three is October 13, when the University has committed to dispatch students to seven of 13 schools currently involved in this year’s program. That date is also the Saturday following the University’s fall W.I.L.D. concert.
According to Venable, that date stood out as one that clearly worked best for a majority of schools, and she does not anticipate its proximity to the University-wide concert being an issue.
“The response that I have for that issue, or with it being the day after W.I.L.D, is that it starts at noon, so it’s not early in the morning. The other thing is that I think that there’s a large population on campus that that won’t be a problem for,” Venable said.
There was never any thought given to canceling the event, she added.
“We wanted to fulfill the commitment that we have with our schools, but we also didn’t want there to be a class that was without the Service First experience,” Venable said. “We wanted to provide the experience in the best way we can.”
Because of the University’s obligation to fulfill a commitment to the local partner schools, the event has been opened up to any and all students who would like to participate, not only first-year students and project leaders as it has been in the past.
Cheryl Adelstein, director of community relations and local government affairs, noted that first year students’ own scheduling conflicts will likely mean that not all of those students will be able to attend, leaving space to be filled by whomever else is interested.
“The way I look at it is we’ve made a commitment and an obligation to 13 schools that we’re going to be there with students to do projects. So I’m anxious to find any way possible to fulfill the University’s commitment to our school partners. While it would be ideal if we can get all freshman out for that experience, I want to make sure that we meet our school commitment, and if it means opening up the program to make sure we have full buses, then I support that,” Adelstein said.
While Venable said she will make every effort to place groups of students together on one service project, she acknowledged that what is typically a community bonding event for first-year students will look very different this year.
“I’m really excited about it. Even though I love the one day of service at the beginning of the school year, I think this gives us a new way to think about things, which is good,” she said.
The community service fair in the Clocktower Plaza of the South 40 that typically follows Service First will not be taking place this year for logistical reasons.
With respect to next fall’s event, Venable and other staff members of the CSO plan to return Service First to its original format, with a focus on first-year students and concentration on one day of service over Labor Day weekend.
Junior Jenny Rowley was unsure whether upperclassmen would feel compelled to participate in the event.
“I think for a junior, it isn’t something that I would initially consider, because it’s something that’s so typically just for freshmen,” she said.
Senior Colleen Rhoades said she appreciated the CSO’s efforts to keep the event alive.
“I do think fewer people will go, just because classes have started, exams have started and people are committed to other things now, so it was good when it was right at the beginning of the year, but I think with the weather circumstance, the Community Service Office is basically doing the best that they can, and I do think that spreading it out over three days is a good way to still make sure we provide the level of service to all the schools that we’re partnering with that we had originally planned on,” she said.
With regards to the final date’s proximity to W.I.L.D., many students felt that the date was less than desirable and expressed doubts that their peers would be inclined to sign up for that date.
“I mean, I feel like you kind of reserve W.I.L.D. weekend for being generally useless,” Rowley said.
Others, though, were more hopeful.
“I think it’d be less popular, but I think a significant amount of people would still go to it,” said James Chen, a freshman who added that he would consider going to the event on that date.
“I mean, I’m sure CSO tried to avoid that,” Rhoades said. “There’s a good population of people who find W.I.L.D. really isn’t their flavor of entertainment, so I can see those people wanting to go out on that Saturday. If they had only picked that day, I think that would have been a disservice. I don’t think it’s ideal, but I think they did the best they could.”