Editorial: Eastern should not mandate community service on its new students

Every year when new students arrive at Eastern, freshman and transfers alike, they are given a checklist of activities they are expected to participate in as a part of Eastern’s Prowl program which is, according the school’s website designed to help students “make a smooth transition into their new lives as an EIU Panther”. One of the events listed for students to attend during prowl is “Jumpstart service projects” (community service) and listed next to it in parentheses is the phrase “mandatory for all new students”. 

We the staff of The Daily Eastern News believe that requiring students to volunteer for service projects upon their arrival at Eastern is pushing the boundaries of what a school should ask from students who have already committed to spend thousands of dollars and countless hours of their time on campus and in the community. It also begs the question, “If its mandatory, is it really volunteering? Or is it forced work?”

While we fully support students participating voluntarily in community service and as a newspaper encourage that behavior from students, we ask you to ponder, is it an okay precedent for a university to require its students to participate in community service upon their arrival.

Eastern is one of the largest employers in Coles County and the economy of the county relies heavily upon the dollars spent in the community by both Eastern staff and students. It also was not too long ago that Eastern was a school with struggling enrollment, a struggle that was felt economically in Coles County. For an area that already relies on students to spend their money at local business is it safe for that same community to say “not only do we need you to spend in the community, but we also expect you to commit your time to volunteer in the community”. 

The key word used there is “expectation”. According to the Eastern website, the purpose of the community service is to teach students about the expectations of the Charleston community. But is it really the expectation of the community that Eastern students must be active in community service? And if this is the expectation, is it right to expect that on top of everything else that is expected from these young adults.

Eastern students already contribute to the Charleston community by helping the local economy tremendously by spending money, keeping Eastern and all of its employees afloat and also by working actual paying jobs in the community, so is it fair to put the expectation on these students that they must participate in community service as well?

We do not think so.

While we do believe students should be active in community service, we feel that is a decision that should be made voluntarily by the students, not one that is mandated by the school.