We can do more with our talents

Last week, The Tartan questioned whether or not Carnegie Mellon’s focus on community service was adequate. (University President Jared Cohon took the time to weigh in on this question; please see his op-ed on the following page.) From a student perspective, though, we feel that the options for community service are not always readily apparent on this campus.

Here are some suggestions for students, staff, and faulty to make our contributions bigger and better.

Seek out existing resources

Carnegie Mellon does have a community service office, although it hasn’t become common knowledge. It’s in the Student Development Office, and the point of contact is M. Sherenell Smith. This office can provide students with a number of local service projects to get involved with, as well as larger efforts such as post-Hurricane Katrina relief. There is also a service intern, who sends out regular e-mails to the campus community detailing upcoming projects. Inquire with Student Development to start receiving these e-mails.

Increase funding

Last semester, Student Senate allocated less than 2 percent of its budget to community service organizations. We say that’s just not enough. In order for student service organizations to gain popularity and publicity, they need more funding and more recognition.

Take a cue from the Greeks

The Carnegie Mellon Greek community contributes through service on a regular and rigorous basis — we even have an entire co-ed fraternity devoted to service, Alpha Phi Omega. Other student organizations would do well to emulate Greek life in this respect, and make service a regular part of their organizational structure. Not only do service projects give back to the community, but they create strong relationships and boost organizational morale. We also urge the Greek community to share their experiences and advice with the student community at large.

Incorporate community outreach into the classrooms

Every department has some service initiatives, whether they’re local (such as Take Back the Hill, a student-made journal in the Hill District) or international (such as Technology Consulting in the Global Community, which sends students to developing countries over the summer to consult in building a technological infrastructure). There are plenty of classes that could incorporate community outreach into their curricula, and by exposing students to service, they could create an atmosphere focused not only on learning but on applying that learning to good works.

Make it a campus-wide movement

While service may be encouraged in small circles, the only time it gets campus-wide recognition is during first-year Orientation, when a service day is included in the schedule of events. Why not make service an imperative across campus as a whole? Similar to “A Day On” on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Student Development Office could create and publicize a “Community Outreach Day” over mid-semester break. Think of all the ways the local community could benefit if the entire student body were deployed, even for just one day.

During Orientation programs, the incoming class is constantly told how unique it is, how impressive, how exemplary. Carnegie Mellon wastes no words in telling our student body that it has powerful gifts. Is it not, then, our responsibility as a student body to put those gifts to good use by giving back?