The Center for Social Concerns withdraws resources for community engagement
The Center for Social Concerns (CSC) no longer provides vehicles that students can rent free of charge to perform social services in community learning courses.
CSC’s website states that “effective June 1, 2022, the center will no longer offer vehicles for reservation.”
This change has impacted community learning courses across disciplines like Romance Languages, Writing and Rhetoric, and the Liberal Studies Program (PLS). These classes include a service requirement at sites like La Casa de Amistad, the Logan Center, or the Center for the Homeless in downtown South Bend.
Elizabeth Capdevielle, an assistant professor in the University’s writing program, has taught community writing and rhetoric sections since 2012. Capdevielle explained that her involvement in the service stemmed from an interest in the campus “bubble.”
“I was very interested in sustainability issues and the Notre Dame bubble itself,” she said. “I wanted students to get off campus to see the urban side of our community and also the rural context in which it exists.”
Capdevielle said CSC used to sponsor its community course in previous years by allowing its students to use rental cars.
“They had a set of vans in a parking lot near Stepan Center. Students could go to Geddes Hall and check them out and get the keys,” she said.
Capdevielle said the rental process included online training for students signing up to drive the vans and that CSC would pay for gas and vehicle maintenance. She mentioned that the vehicles were shared among everyone doing CSC-sponsored service projects, including different courses, other types of service visits, and community-focused retreats.
These community writings and rhetoric not only provided an opportunity for students to reflect on the service work they did, but also had a more direct impact on the sites, said Patrick Clauss, writing program director. of the University.
“A die [application materials] this [the Logan Center] needed as part of the grant were their client profiles,” Clauss said. “Writing and rhetoric students interviewed clients and wrote very nice client biographies.”
Clauss said the change came as a surprise when it was announced in June. The department canceled the five community writing and rhetoric sections scheduled for this fall, replacing them with five sections of the standard writing and rhetoric courses, when they learned there would be no transportation offered. by CSC.
“Our classes are for freshmen…primarily and most freshmen don’t have vehicles on campus,” he explained. “We think it’s not fair to shift the burden and have students pay for Ubers or Lyfts.”
Clauss said CSC told him it had suspended vehicle rental service for students for financial and liability reasons.
Neither CSC Director Suzanne Shanahan nor Associate Director JP Shortall responded to Observer requests for comment.
Marisel Moreno, an associate professor of Romance languages and literatures, has been teaching community-learning Spanish classes since 2010. She said she found out about the new resource changes about a week before classes started.
Moreno said that while she was able to continue her community learning classes this semester because enough students in her classes have personal vehicles to organize carpools, she wonders about future sections of the class. .
“Going forward with this change, I see no way for me to be able to teach my classes. If it’s a financial issue and the Center for Social Concerns can’t afford it anymore, I think it’s a bigger problem. The University needs to find the resources so that those of us who do this work can continue to do this work,” she said.
Clark Power, a PLS professor, teaches an ethics course centered on service-learning. He stressed the importance of institutional support for service-learning courses at Notre Dame, where 20 percent of South Bend’s population lives below the poverty line.
“The University’s mission statement says that it ‘seeks to cultivate in its students not only an appreciation for the great achievements of human beings, but also a disciplined sensitivity to poverty, injustice and oppression ‘” Power said. “If we want to take this mission seriously, we need to put more effort into making the service accessible to students.”
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