Re: "No One is More Worthy To Do Service"

Thursday, March 12, 2020

The Service Organization Community is a group of ten student-led groups, each dedicated to a specific social justice issue. Photo: Raven Yamamoto

Re: "No One is More Worthy To Do Service"
By Raven Yamamoto

On Feb. 26, The Loyolan ran an op-ed titled “No one is more worthy to do service,” an article by assistant opinion editor Veronica Backer-Peral about the “exclusivity” of the Service Organization Community (SOC) after its recruitment season concluded.

I want to start by acknowledging my position and potential bias in this situation. Like you, I’m a member of an LMU service organization. I have had the privilege to serve as president of my organization, Agape, while also holding the title of SOC Co-chair from 2019-2020. During my leadership, I went through the deliberation process twice, welcomed in two generations of Agape members and saw firsthand what the process looks like behind the scenes. 

As a member of SOC, I know the system has its flaws. There are issues of gender exclusivity and the potential for white saviorism. Transportation and funding are provided for members but are often not accessible to those outside of SOC. This op-ed failed to address the parts of SOC that are in actual need of reform. 

In arguing for SOC’s reform, you wrote:

“There is a common misconception that service organizations are equivalent to sororities and fraternities. When I first heard about "service orgs," I was told they were ‘an alternative to Greek life.’ As a tour guide myself, I’ve always found that that’s the easiest way to explain how service organizations work.”
I agree that this misconception exists and that some people only apply to service orgs after getting rejected from Greek life because their rush seasons are so close together. But the people applying to Greek life are often not the same people applying to SOC, especially when you consider the privilege needed to afford to pay dues for both. Greek life dues are often around $1,000 per semester, while service organization dues don’t exceed $80, if that. 
Never mind the different focuses of the two—one emphasizes social life and the other social justice. Both provide communities for those seeking them on campus, but the primary focus of SOC is service.
Furthermore, if this misconception is as prevalent as you claim it is, why explain SOC to prospective students this way? If we described service organizations more intentionally, wouldn’t that better debunk the false equivalency drawn between Greek life and SOC? Tour guides and orientation leaders should take a more active role in clarifying the purposes and intentions of service organizations instead of defaulting to convenience.
“The issue, though, [is] when hundreds of students are applying each year, it's hard to determine who is actually passionate about service and who is not. Great writing and interview skills are by no means essential to service nor a guarantee that a student is committed to service, but that’s what the applicants are being judged on.”
Actually, applicants are not always heavily graded on great writing. The essay portion of the application for SOC is usually weighed at a lower percentage than the in-person interview across organizations. In Agape, essays contribute 30% of applicants’ overall scores. Interview scores account for the other 70%. 
The Center for Service and Action (CSA) has also always discouraged service organizations from using interview skills as criteria. Applicants—especially first-generation students and other students from underprivileged backgrounds—don’t always have the resources to learn ‘proper’ interview etiquette. For example, if someone isn’t dressed formally or doesn’t make eye contact, it doesn’t affect their score. While we can’t know for sure what happens in every student deliberation, there is a clear and conscious effort being made by CSA to keep things fair for applicants from all walks of life. 
Though the Center of Service and Action, LMU offers countless service trips and alternatives to go to the same placements as service organizations. But still, it is apparent that the Service Organization Community could do something to address its blatantly low acceptance rates.”

Could they, though? According to a report by Chelsea Brown, CSA’s Assistant Director for Student Engagement, the acceptance rate for SOC this year was significantly higher than last year. In 2019, the acceptance rate was 40%. This year, it was 64%, meaning more than half of the applicants were welcomed into SOC. This might not be the 100% you’re looking for, but it’s worth considering. 


“One option is to be more blunt about the requirements associated with being part of an organization. 30 hours of service on and off-campus is a big time commitment. While recruitment events shouldn’t aim to deter potential applicants, they should fully inform students of the responsibilities that they are committing to. This way, we can get a better informed and, perhaps, smaller applicant pool.”


The 30-hour service requirement is made clear throughout the SOC recruitment process, both by SOC members and CSA staff. It’s explicitly mentioned at the Service Organization Open Houses, workshops that are held before the recruitment process begins, to explain what the commitment to a service organization looks like before students even apply. This hour requirement is also restated by most service orgs in applicant interviews as a way to ensure the commitment you’re describing. I can’t imagine a way to “be more blunt” about it. 


This way, the Service Organization Community can ensure that applicants are committed and motivated to do service. Once this is accomplished it then becomes absurd to limit who is selected and who is not.
If anything, the issue stems from SOC members who either don’t complete their service hours or only complete service hours to meet the requirement. It’s very easy for people to simply clock in and out when going to their service placements and not engage with the systemic issues they are trying to solve. It shouldn’t be about counting hours, it should be about making hours count. The real issue with uncommitted SOC’ers is where their heart is, not whether they know what is expected of them timewise. As someone who has been in the deliberation room twice, I know the process is designed to weed out those with warped views of service or savior-like intentions, not to quantify a person’s worth when it comes to simply doing service. That’s never the intention.


This all can be summed up in the quote you used from Kamilah Roca-Datzer, in which she said: service orgs aren’t the only way to do service and getting denied shouldn’t be disheartening.” 


SOC, however exclusive, is not a roadblock for people who want to do service. The relationship between service organizations and their respective placement sites is not exclusive. Anyone is allowed to get in contact with these nonprofits and begin a working relationship with them as individuals or independent groups. I’ve even provided a list of each organization’s placement sites below for anyone who might want to serve at one.  


The Center for Service and Action is open every day from 8 a.m- 5 p.m. Front desk student employees are there at all times to help connect students to community service opportunities. The office even offers maps that detail several nonprofits in Los Angeles, many within walking distance of LMU, where students can pursue service independently. Staff members’ doors are always open for students in search of guidance or mentorship. 


There are also the “countless service trips and alternatives,” you mentioned that are available to those not in SOC. CSA offers Alternative Breaks and social justice immersion trips year-round, and runs El Espejo, an after-school mentoring program anyone can join. Campus Ministry runs the De Colores program, a monthly trip to Tijuana based in service and community. Feed the Hungry is a weekly service opportunity to prepare lunches for Santa Monica’s unhoused community. The list goes on. 


Yes, no one is more worthy to do service,” but no one is being forced to go through the service organization recruitment process. There is a valid argument to be made against SOC, but this isn’t it. If you’re going to criticize an institution, you have to criticize the right issues. Predominantly white membership, gender exclusivity and lack of transportation and funding available to non-SOC’ers are just a few of the many critiques one could have, but are nowhere to be found in this list of grievances. 


The Center for Service and Action exists for a reason. You just have to make it there. 


This is the opinion of Raven Yamamoto, a junior journalism major from Kahului, HI.


5 comments

  1. This article is so biased it’s crazy. As a person that was rejected from the service org community twice, heavily involved in other service groups at LMU, service orga are very exclusive. From my experience with csa and knowledge of the soc from friends involved, they only people who get in are the desirable candidates not the service based ones. It’s easy to get blacklisted. This stylist ignores the fact that csa doesn’t help that much with students who want to do service who are not in an org and has been going down hill since tk left. Students who want to join bc of service can’t bc members don’t care that much about it, some do, but many care about the clout and not the hours. There is a reason most orgs never get 100% of their hours. Check your self

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    1. You call out the author's bias despite them admitting it, and you have your biases yourself. If you were rejected 2 times, that is likely because you only applied to all-gender orgs or Belles. When you apply to those 5 you commit to competition. It is incredibly hard for those orgs to distinguish people's actual intentions when you have over a hundred people competing for 20 spots. Yes, there's some problems with recruitment, but people get rejected twice because they only look at certain big orgs and don't give smaller ones a chance. If being in an org was that important to you, why wouldn't you look at all the orgs you're eligible for? In no way are people blacklisted like you think you are.

      Your comment is a summary about all the problems the author ALREADY mentioned in the article. And it's ignorant to stand high and assume the orgs are supposed to make all their hours when life happens. The people who don't make their hours get warned and asked to leave if they don't improve the next semester. I'm pretty sure the author has checked their self.

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    2. There are a ton of great ways to get involved through CSA regardless of being part of a service org. First semester freshman year, before I could apply to a service org, I got involved in various ways like El Espejo, Alma, and Homeboy. CSA is an amazing place and is constantly filled with students looking for ways to get involved. Stop by! I'm sure people would love to help you find a placement.

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