As the oldest and perhaps best-known Catholic and Jesuit university in the country, Georgetown has a unique opportunity to represent the tenets of that heritage. One of the founding ideals of that Jesuit tradition is that one must use one’s talents not simply to enrich oneself, but to enrich the lives of others. As the university states on its website, educating “men and women in the service of others, especially the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the community … [is] at the core of Georgetown’s identity.” One way in which students use their talents for society’s benefit is through community service. From Habitat for Humanity to D.C. Reads and Alternative Spring Break, Georgetown students participate in a wide variety of service activities. But should the school be doing more? As it does with general education or foreign languages, the university ought to consider making community service a mandatory component of the Georgetown education. There are several ways in which a community service requirement would benefit the Georgetown community. First, it would fit with the Jesuit tradition of being socially conscious and willing to sacrifice for those who are less fortunate. Making community service mandatory would show that Georgetown is committed to inculcating the values of service and responsibility in all its students. The university has requirements in the curriculum that stem from its particular mission, and those prescriptions could reasonably extend to other aspects of campus life as well. Such a requirement would also strengthen Georgetown’s identity in relation to other universities and provide a unique example of how the university’s Jesuit principles actively inform its policies.In addition, placing more emphasis on community service could bolster the Georgetown community. For many students, doing community service is meant to be a punishment — assigned because of violations of the Code of Student Conduct. Having all Georgetown students participate in community service as part of their education would introduce service in a positive light, rather than a negative one. This could promote more students doing service above and beyond the requirement, as their initial experiences would be enriching and constructive. Students would also have the opportunity to build new relationships and strengthen the on-campus community through their shared experiences with helping those in need.Students can make an impact on the greater D.C. area by donating their time and energy in several ways. We are privileged to live in a comfortable neighborhood on a vibrant and growing campus. With that privilege comes a responsibility to use our resources to aid those who live in dire need — often only a short distance from the front gates. Increasing the number of Georgetown students performing community service would provide much-needed assistance to the organizations that address issues of poverty and public health every day. Implementing this requirement would not be very onerous, from either an administrative or an educational standpoint. Given that service is already an integral part of Georgetown’s identity, it is not a radical decision to solidify that service requirement as part of a Georgetown education. The obligation need not be an extremely burdensome time commitment, simply long enough so that students may gain a full appreciation of the value of community service. A service requirement would emphasize the connection between the principles that one learns in a classroom and the realities of life in a major city, and Georgetown would be well served to ensure that students have an opportunity to exercise the values that it seeks to instill in them.
Dan Healy is a senior in the College. TALK IS CHEAP appears every other Tuesday.