Community Service and Service-Learning at UF
J. Michael Rollo, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs
The University of Florida initiated a process last year to help address growing concerns regarding the community standardization of volunteerism and volunteer liability. The Office of Community Service (OCS) has worked with the UF General Counsel’s Office to establish Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with every agency to which we refer University of Florida students, whether they are simply volunteering or involved in a specific service-learning class. This MOU is in response to a recent Supreme Court of Florida case that held Nova Southeastern University could be liable in tort for not warning a student of a potential danger while volunteering at a local agency. It is critical that all UF faculty work with the Office of Community Service for any volunteer requirements related to their courses. This ensures that the university has a current Memorandum of Understanding with the agencies that faculty are interested in working with.
The OCS must establish MOU’s with every agency identifying the responsibilities of the OCS and the Volunteer Service Site to which student volunteers will be assigned. Agencies supervising University of Florida students involved in community service or a service-learning course need to ensure that students are provided with the following:
* orientation, training, supervision;
* a description of skills needed to complete the assigned project;
* a clear description of the assigned service-learning project, including expectations, requirements and responsibilities;
* and a safe and appropriate working environment.
Agencies will also:
* designate a coordinator to serve as liaison with the OCS,
* undertake reasonable measures to ensure the safety of the working environment for volunteers,
* provide all student volunteers the same protection against liability arising in connection with their assignments and associated projects as is provided to the Volunteer Service Site’s full-time employees. Such protection includes, but is not limited to, coverage for student volunteers under the Volunteer Service Site’s comprehensive general liability insurance policies.
The OCS will ensure that agencies are provided with the following:
* direct consultation for identifying appropriate tasks for students;
* orientation in conjunction with the Volunteer Center of Alachua County for agency supervisors regarding students needs and capabilities;
* student candidates for service-learning placements; and,
* matching the organization’s needs to the professors’ educational requirements.
To facilitate this process, the mission of OCS Service Learning Program is developing awareness, understanding, and commitment to service-learning by providing a physical and virtual resource center that facilitates interactions between faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, student services staff, and community partners.
As a part of this mission:
* The OCS works actively to serve educational institutions, government and non-governmental organizations, community agencies, and the UF.
* The OCS will organize educational and training tools to aid the faculty and agencies in the development and implementation of service-learning activities.
* The OCS works with faculty to support student-learning objectives, and develop successful approaches to service learning teaching strategies through existing networks and resources.
The OCS has developed an on-line service-learning resource handbook for faculty at http://www.union.ufl.edu/ocs/slhandbook/. Also on-line is the Service Learning Request Form for faculty to complete when working with the OCS. The OCS is using the VOLUNTEERGATEWAY.ORG website to register students for all student volunteer activities, including courses. As a note, the “volunteer gateway” was developed in partnership between UF and the Volunteer Center of Alachua County,
The Office of Community Service (OCS) at the University of Florida sincerely appreciates your involvement, support and belief in community service and service learning. Because of you, thousands of UF students annually experience the power of service while they help our community. We hope to continue our growing relationship in the future to support our students and your needs. Contact Colette Taylor, Assistant Director of Student Activities/Director of Community Service at firstname.lastname@example.org or 392-1655 or the Office of Community Service at email@example.com or 392-7872 with any questions that you may have. Thank you for your patience and understanding.