Staff Editorial: Turning the Tables on Volunteerism at Lawrence

Every Spring Term, Greek Week is a chance for Greek organizations at Lawrence to create a positive image of Greek Life on campus, in part by promoting their volunteerism and philanthropic efforts during the week. Throughout the year, Greek organizations on campus require members to volunteer a certain number of hours each term, and many members of Greek organizations log volunteer hours for work done at Greek Week events. Although the funds raised for local nonprofits through Greek Week events definitely have a positive impact, the nature of volunteerism during these events is representative of a campus-wide issue in relation to volunteer hours, quantity over quality.

Greek organization volunteer requirements stem from good intentions, but they are somewhat problematic. Many members of Greek organizations regularly volunteer off-campus with their chapter or on their own; on the other hand, participating in Greek Week events and tabling allow members to meet minimum chapter requirements. These sorts of on-campus fundraising events may not be as effective from a financial standpoint as simply donating money would be. However, volunteer hours count towards group requirements and can be included on a resume, while monetary contributions are not. The nature of volunteerism through these events presents two starkly different definitions of volunteerism: fundraising for the community, versus interacting with and creating meaningful connections within the community.

Part of the Volunteer & Community Service Center’s (VCSC) mission states that “connecting Lawrentians to needs in the surrounding community[and] creating an environment of mutual learning and growth” is integral to service. However, while on-campus fundraising events assist the Appleton community, not all participants engage with the populations they are fundraising for—some do not even know how the money is used, or who it will help. As a result, not all students volunteer in a way that promotes mutual growth and learning between Lawrence and the greater community.

Whether or not Greek Life portrays an unfair representation of service work and philanthropy, all students should be aware of what it truly means to dedicate time volunteering. Since Lawrence has created opportunities for students to engage with and dedicate time to the Appleton community, it is important to realize that volunteerism is not just self-serving, but can be a hands-on learning experience outside of the Lawrence Bubble.