In the fall of my sophomore year I explored Bates’ opportunities and realized that by applying some solid effort for a few hours a week, I could walk away with a greater expertise at a musical instrument of my choice and pump a bit of much-needed steroids into my GPA. I have since continued my studies in applied music and relished each Easy A. More importantly, I have tangible results to show for my efforts.
Allow me to take an aside to explain my definition for an Easy A: An Easy A is a class in which one earns an A simply by giving it a Bates College effort; if one exhibits why Bates accepted him or her, then he or she deserves an A. The A, therefore, might elude your average human, but we, here at Bates, are far from average.
Now, should Bates offer Community Service as a half-credit Easy A?
The answer is simple: absolutely. The utilitarian morality makes this decision a no-brainer. In my past four years here, I have witnessed too many students cruise through their experience at Bates without transcending their studies. This is not to say Bates’ student body lacks philanthropic and adventurous qualities—it’s clear it does not. This is to say it’s on Bates to incentivize the student body to give back to the Lewiston community not only with GPA boosters, but also with accessibility.
Let’s not ignore the digital world in which our students live. Maybe 40 years ago accessibility meant providing on-campus recruitment in a classroom at 5 p.m. with pizza and pop. (That’s what they called soda then, right? Let’s just say it is.) In 2016 accessibility means not having to leave your room to sign up for community service. From the most altruistic of altruists to those with the Jewish mother guilt-trip gene, imagine how many more people would sign up for community service in Lewiston if they could do so simply by logging into Garnet Gateway.
On top of that, so much of Bates’ community service program runs through the education and psychology department, all of which have fairly harsh hourly minimums. Like music lessons, a one hour a week commitment assures students that their service won’t consume their busy waking hours while still allowing, over a ten week period, enough time for the students to develop meaningful relationships and witness their unique trajectory of personal growth.
Back to answer to an obvious concern from the administration: this is not handing out A’s. Although it might be the expected grade for any adequate student, that student, through charitable ardor (and probably a three-page end of semester reflection) earned his A.
“Yeah, but students should not need the incentive of a half-credit A to lend a hand in their community,” some Lane Hall cynic might say. Sorry, but isn’t this, and some of Bates’ strongest objectives, to foster a fiery hunger for education and to cultivate a strong, supportive community? Don’t draw those borders on Frye and Russell St.
Community-based work also generates unique experiences for every party involved. Through my experiences in Lewiston schools for my education classes and at the Boys and Girls Club coaching a middle school basketball team, kids throughout the area look up to Bates students as mentors and friends.
And that’s what this is about: the benefits. The benefits outweigh any notion of GPA-induced malintent. The benefits also extend past each particular semester. If this inspires just one person to take up a charitable career, won’t this be worth it?