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The Campus and Public Service

Increasing numbers of college students want to serve their communities. Some help homeless people find shelter and services. Others tutor children or teach the illiterate how to read. Now a coalition of more than 40 California colleges and universities, public and private, has agreed to help these students to help others. The California Compact, as it is called, plans to work with communities to identify the problems on which students could work, try to win foundation support for these volunteer programs, and get faculty members as well as students involved. It’s a gift of commitment that should not go unnoticed.

The California Compact has just been launched as part of a national effort called Campus Compact, which is sponsored by the Education Commission of the States and has been in existence for several years. The California group is co-chaired by Stanford University President Don Kennedy and UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young, and includes among others the University of Southern California, Occidental College, Claremont McKenna College, Los Angeles City College, the California State University system and the University of California campuses. The James Irvine Foundation has just announced a $120,000 donation over the next three years to enable private universities to participate in the compact.

It’s just this kind of program that California legislators sought to foster when they passed a bill sponsored by Assemblyman John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara). That measure encouraged students to work 30 hours a year in their communities and urged their colleges to help them, in part by providing academic credit for some of their work. The efforts have gotten under way despite the governor’s unwillingness to spend the $240,000 needed to help organize the program.

In announcing the organization of the compact, UCLA’s Chancellor Young said recently that government resources may continue to be scarce, “but our human resources are potentially unlimited.” He said that the colleges want to help build a “citizenry of problem solvers.”

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People who have studied college life have said for years that higher education could be made more meaningful if it inculcated in young Americans the value of public service. The California Compact aims to make that recommendation a reality.


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