Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Breaking the Bubble: service is manly

Dear Men of Whitman College,

This column is addressed to you.

Last spring, I was tasked with recruiting eight to  ten Whitman volunteers for one of Blue Mountain Habitat for Humanity‘s weekly build sessions. This assignment was part of my duties as an intern at the Center for Community Service (now the community service office within the student engagement center). Being the go-getting CCS intern that I was, I sought to assemble an all-male group of  eight to ten  Habitat volunteers.

With this goal in mind, I sent an e-mail entitled “A call to Robust Whitman Males – Habitat for Humanity needs you” to numerous listservs.

The failure of Whitman men to respond to this e-mail is now legendary. After its dispatch to e-mail lists that I am confident included at least 500 men, I received one affirmative response.

It was from then-first-year Charlie Weems (yes, I am naming names) and he wanted to give three hours of his Saturday to help build a home for a family in our community. After several days of trying, I had still assembled fewer than five male volunteers. I was forced to compromise my original goal and filled the remaining spots with the ubiquitous service-minded girls of this college.

Can this anecdote help us understand the culture of male volunteerism (or lack thereof) at Whitman? Certainly it may be indicative of a problem, but establishes nothing in itself. When viewed alongside the following brief compendium of volunteer data, though, the disappointing male showing at Habitat appears to be part of larger trend. Consider the following:

• 55% of the Whitman student body is female, 45% is male

• Of approximately 170 applicants to the Whitman Mentor Program,  Whitman’s largest service program, for fall 2009, 45 (approximately 26.5%) were male

• Of 99 applicants to the Adopt-A-Grandparent Program for fall 2009, 10 (approximately 10%) were male

• Of 48 applicants for the Youth Adventure Program, 17 (approximately 35%) were male

• Of 74 applicants for the Story Time Program, eight (approximately 11%) were male

Men, these are striking statistics. They demand not only your attention, but also your action.

I spoke with senior Molly Carroll, lead intern for the Whitman Mentor Program, to discover the specific effects that lack of male involvement will have on her program this year.

The Mentor Program pairs at-risk children, the mentee, in Walla Walla elementary schools with a “big friend,” the mentor, from Whitman who visits them at school once weekly to provide a positive role model and consistent friend.

Mentees are nominated by each school’s Intervention Specialist as students who would most benefit from having a mentor relationship.

According to Carroll, students nominated to receive a mentor are primarily boys in need of a male role model. Often, these mentees have been selected because their father is in prison or absent.

With only 45 male mentors available, Carroll will have to turn away male mentees.

“Often the form will specify or request specifically a positive male role model, and so we try our best to match them with a male. Often, though, we have to match them with females or not at all,” Carrol said.

The Mentor Program’s case is just one manifestation of a distinct need for male volunteers to step up on this campus.

Like mentees need role models, so do Whitties on occasion.

Male RAs, help your first-years find a way to involve themselves in the community. Fraternity philanthropy chairs, ask yourselves if you and your brothers can do more for the community. Readers of this paper, write a letter to the editor and comment online with your thoughts on male volunteerism.

I firmly believe that giving your time to serve others can and should be regarded as a ‘manly‘ pursuit. Service is an outward demonstration that you are capable of and willing to think beyond yourself. To demonstrate your compassion and your passion in a tangible way, and to see the impact of your work.

Surely these are things any man should undertake.

View Comments (3)
More to Discover

Comments (3)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *