Mandatory volunteerism disguises forced labor

Student Government Association president Andre Hammel has stated his desire to add 30 accumulated hours of “mandatory volunteerism” requirements for students to graduate.

The proposal would call for 15 of those hours to be on campus and 15 to be in the Tallahassee community.

It will be a sad day for FAMU if the board of trustee’s votes in favor of this proposal.

President Hammel has said that getting more students involved in the local community is one of his ultimate goals.

If that is the case, then perhaps President Hammel should look at the results of a study published in Psychological Science (Stukas, Snyder, Clary).

The results of the study show that people who were forced to volunteer, especially those with previous volunteer experience, were less likely to do so later in life.

A similar study done in 1991 on blood donors found a similar result. People don’t like to be forced into anything and will naturally have a more negative opinion of something they did because they were coerced versus if they had done it of their own volition.

Some people seem to have the misguided idea that because students are not volunteering they are not benefiting the community.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Many students do not volunteer because they are too busy starting their own businesses, working jobs, participating in clubs or just keeping their grades up.

Why is it that a student who spends 10 hours a week helping two or three people by volunteering is seen as a saint, while a student who spends 27 hours a week to start up and run a business that employs two other people and serves 20 or 30 others is looked upon as a workaholic?

A full time student has to have at least 12 hours worth of credits, which works out to 36 hours worth of studying.

That’s a 48-hour job.

Not to mention, things like sleeping, eating, exercise, or just the general down time a student needs to stay healthy.

When students spread their ideals through a club, bring jobs to the area, or better themselves as a people, they help to advance the community more than a volunteer could.

The fact that the student body president would even consider an idea such as “mandatory volunteerism” is disheartening.

FAMU was established to provide minorities with a chance at higher education in order to free them from the leftover chains of slavery and the ever-present shackles of society.

How is it then, some 115 years later, that the same institution that fought so hard to present real freedom to its students is now thinking about inducting its students into a forced labor program?

Make no mistake, phrases such as “required volunteerism” or “obligatory volunteerism” may sound nice on paper, but forcing someone to work without paying them is just that…forced labor.

By adopting this policy, FAMU would be sending the message that students’ talents and time are not really theirs but rather belong to society, the community and anyone else who has a “need” of them.

President Hammel’s plan for bringing “mandatory volunteerism” to FAMU is a dangerous idea that robs students of their sense of freedom and individuality.

It also turns students off to the idea of volunteering out of free will in the future.

Students should contact President Hammel and the Board of Directors and tell them that students do not want FAMU involved in forced labor programs.

FAMU is and has always been about freedom.

Don’t let anyone destroy that commitment to freedom in the name of “benefiting” the community.

Daniel Watkins can be reached at