On Wednesday morning, as the presidential election came to a close, both President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney urged Americans to consider the importance of civic service. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the havoc wreaked upon Columbia’s neighbors from Midtown to the Jersey Shore, we urge students to take their words to heart.
Following Hurricane Sandy, many Columbia students did their best to reach out and help those who were affected by the storm. The University communicated with us not only about how to stay safe but also how we might be able to volunteer. Members of the administration reached out to Spectator to learn of how students were planning to help Sandy’s victims, and students from across the University have continued to actively post volunteer opportunities throughout the five boroughs on the “Caped Columbians” Facebook group launched by Eric Lee, CC '14, Richard Leong, CC ’14, and Darpan Patel, CC ’14. It is encouraging to see our community actively and earnestly participating in community service in response to a natural disaster. We hope that this spirit of civic engagement will continue long after the hurricane damage has been repaired.
The infrastructure for creating community service opportunities already exists at Columbia. The variety of potential outlets, including Community Impact, the Office of Civic Action and Engagement, and the various charitable events sponsored by organizations ranging from fraternities to cultural groups to athletic teams, demonstrates that many Columbia students take seriously their responsibilities to a larger community beyond Morningside Heights. All that said, many of the service initiatives on campus struggle to get the right mix of publicity and timing. Following the hurricane, we saw the growth of widespread engagement that made use of a range of outreach methods—from grassroots Facebook organization to direct emails from prominent administrators. But we hope that the established service organizations and campus offices will use their resources to take an even more proactive role in helping students fulfill their civic duties.
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