Harvard Staff, Students Discuss Civic Service Lacking On Campuses

This story was written by Esther I Yi, Harvard Crimson
A report by a Stanford professor released this week encourages research universities to expand and institutionalize civic engagement on campuses.

The report comes on the heels of an open letter from 13 members of the Class of 1967 asking University President Drew G. Faust to form a task force to address the "widespread apathy and political indifference of the student body at Harvard College today."

The report, "New Times Demand New Scholarship II: Research Universities and Civic Engagement - Opportunities and Challenges" details areas that are crucial for encouraging civic engagement at research universities.

Written and edited by Timothy K. Stanton and published at the University of California, Los Angeles, the report comes out of a partnership between Campus Contact, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting civic engagement on college campuses, and a network of interested academics.

Harvard provides outlets for civic engagement through organizations like the community service-focused Phillips Brooks House Association and the Institute of Politics, but some question whether the University should have a more active role in promoting it.

Government professor Robert H, Bates said he believes that Harvard should place a stronger emphasis on civic engagement.

He said Harvard focuses on "political theory and political morality," but that civic engagement should become part of campus culture.

According to PBHA President Angelico N.A. Razon '08, however, interest in public service organizations is increasing.

Razon said that he thinks that all people, regardless of background or education level, should help their communities.

"I really do think that everyone has an obligation. I don't think it's just students," Razon said. "I don't think it's the university's place to provide [an outlet for civic engagement], but it's the university's place to support it."

Government professor Jeffry A. Frieden echoed Razon's sentiments.

"Members of the university community should be engaged with the surrounding community and in contact with it," he said.

He said he believes that Harvard is foremost a place of higher learning that teaches "students to think carefully and logically about the world and to draw their conclusions about how the world is and how it should be."

"One would hope that if our educational contributions make [students] understand the world they're in, they'll be better citizens," Frieden said.
© 2007 Harvard Crimson via U-WIRE