Community service among men lackluster, in line with current national college trend

Kinsey White

Nationwide, male college students volunteer within their respective communities in disproportionately low rates compared to their female peers, according to a recent article written in the Chronicle of  Higher Education.  This trend has also become apparent in the Whitman community over the past decade.

While involvement in other forms of public service such as campus government is high among men (the last six presidents of ASWC have been male), the male to female ratio in Whitman’s most prominent volunteer programs is lackluster.

The Whitman Mentor Program is composed of 31 percent males, Adopt-A-Grandparent 11 percent, College Coaches 12 percent, Story Time 22 percent and service trips 28 percent.

“We are always looking to recruit more male volunteers. I’m not sure the men on our campus realize that they have an opportunity to make a significant impact in our community,” said Kelsie Butts, community service coordinator interim. “Many of our programs work with students who are looking [for] and needing a positive, stable male role model in their life. Whitman males can fill that void for them and have the opportunity to really make a difference in a child’s life.”

Senior Noah Lerner coordinates the Whitman Mentor Program along with Mollee Huisanga. This popular volunteering opportunity on campus pairs Whitman students with at-risk elementary school students. Lerner, who came to Whitman four years ago owing 35 hours of community service due to a speeding ticket, said he was “hooked” as soon as he began volunteering at Whitman.

“I find volunteer work to be really rewarding. I wish more men could experience that!” said Lerner. “There aren’t nearly enough men involved in volunteering on campus. I wish they’d just try it out more. Most guys who join the program find they love it, and I know there are tons of ways to volunteer in the community that guys could get really into.”

Although Lerner cannot identify a specific reason for the lack of male representation within these programs, he says he believes many males fail to take the time to investigate volunteering opportunities on campus.

Assistant Dean for Student Engagement, Noah Leavitt, who oversees the Student Engagement Center finds volunteering in general to be stereotyped nationwide as an activity that attracts more  females  than males, a commonly held belief he doesn’t believe holds true at all despite the stigma.

“Most volunteer opportunities that Whitman provides, and most volunteer positions in society in general, involve interpersonal work: face-to-face interactions with other people in American society, that kind of work has historically been expected of, carried out by and therefore further expected by, women,” said Leavitt.

“However, I am always hopeful that Whitman’s volunteer and community service projects will be of interest to men . . . I know many male Whitman students who are indeed caring and compassionate, and I would love to see them bring these wonderful aspects of their identities to the wider world,” he added.

Over the past three years, there has been a male intern in the Community Service Office, a shift which has increased male volunteerism at Whitman, also paralleled with an increase in male volunteers within the Greek system.  Many Whitman males have also come to volunteer through their sports teams and other student organizations. Leavitt hopes that the new Teaching the Movement initiative project will continue to hold a fairly-balanced gender ratio for volunteers. This new opportunity for males to volunteer on campus has seen a greater turn out of men than within the other programs the Community Service Office runs.

“[Whitman Teaches the Movement] was a short, high energy but low commitment program that allowed me to engage in something I was passionate about without having to be attached to a long-term weekly activity with lots of meetings and little action. I went to trainings, met with my co-teacher, and then taught my class: it was that simple,” said senior and WTTM volunteer, Jackson Bellaimey. “I hope that WTTM can keep attracting a wide array of volunteers, but I worry it will be harder next year without the initial excitement that surrounds a pilot program like this,” he said.

“Volunteering is part of your civic duty! Spend a few hours a week trying to make someone else’s life easier, and you’re helping to change the world for the better,” said Lerner. +