The University Record, May 24, 1993

Checkoway, Hartford testify in D.C. about national service proposal

By Bernie DeGroat
News and Information Services

If Congress approves President Bill Clinton’s national service plan, the University is prepared to help make it a success, U-M officials told a congressional panel last week.

“We and our partners in eastern Michigan have expressed an interest in serving as one of the pilot sites for the program,” said Maureen A. Hartford, vice president for student affairs. “We know there is a need in our communities for service, an interest on the part of our students, and a willingness on the part of our universities to get involved. What we need is the framework to make it happen.”

Hartford and Barry N. Checkoway, professor of social work and urban planning, testified before the House Education and Labor Committee on the merits of Clinton’s proposed national service program.

Under the plan, students would receive $5,000 for tuition or to pay off student loans for each of two years of community service. They also would be paid minimum wage and would receive health and child care benefits, if needed.

Hartford believes national service is a “good investment” because it would create partnerships between colleges, businesses, service agencies and government to address needs in education, the environment and public safety; would allow students who must work to become more involved in community service since they would get paid; and would encourage young people to help solve problems like poverty, crime and illiteracy.

“This generation of college students is increasingly interested in national and community service, and is looking for opportunities to become community members actively addressing local problems,” she said.

According to Checkoway, students involved in community service may perform better in the classroom than those who don’t. They also may gain more practical, “real-life” skills, which may enhance future economic productivity, and may develop a greater sense of social responsibility.

“Research shows that community service has positive effects on the young people who participate and on the communities they serve,” he said. “They should not be expected to shoulder the burden of community problems whose causes and solutions are beyond their reach, but young people have a right to participate and a responsibility to serve the community.”

In a visit to campus May 15, Eli Segal, director of the president’s national service initiative, told the U-M Task Force on Community Service that a national service program would complement—not replace—existing University programs like Project Outreach, Project Community and the Office of Community Service Learning.

“There is a movement in place,” he said. “I see Washington as sort of an investment banker that will be supporting local initiatives in that movement. If we’re smart and don’t overpromise, we can make this effort work.”