Let service be service

By Alice Phillips

The Chronicle’s page 11 editorial “Finish your community service” is wrong.

This year, 547 students had yet to complete their community service requirement on March 16. Out of 870 upper school students. That’s 63 percent of upper school students. Last year, 271 students had yet to complete the requirement by May 21.

Something clearly isn’t working. The Chronicle’s editorial ignores the fairly obvious fact that if nearly two thirds of upper school students have yet to complete their service, the system is broken.

Full disclosure: I haven’t completed my community service requirement. I’ll do it, I swear, but I’ll do it later. I have to admit, I’m comforted by the knowledge that I am not alone in my procrastination.

But, despite my personal inadequacies in this department, I maintain that the community service system is broken and needs to be fixed. In fact, it was probably faultily constructed in the first place. I simply refuse to believe that nearly two thirds of upper school students are indifferent to the world outside of Harvard-Westlake. I refuse to believe, as the Community Council would have me think, that nearly two thirds of students are so apathetic and/or selfish that they can’t take four hours out of their life for community service.

No, the problem is the system. The problem is the half-baked, often disingenuous community service model at this school.

Community Council claims to support students’ involvement in community service, but it seems rather irrational to require that students who have already acquired a life-long love for community service do extra, school approved service just because service must be done with four members of the community. If the mission of the Council is truly to build ties with the larger Los Angeles community, a student who has done 50 hours of independent service should be considered a shining success.

But that doesn’t seeem to be the case. Half of the mission of the Council, as stated in their mission statement, is to build community within the Harvard-Westlake community. I, for one, get quite enough of the Harvard-Westlake community. What I need more of is the pure, un-Harvard-Westlake-adulterated Los Angeles community.

If the point is Harvard-Westlake community building, let’s call it community building.

If the point is community service, let’s call it community service. And let’s not pretend that 63 percent of students are indifferent to the outside world.