In November of 2010, the Aviso published “‘Guy problem’ in service learning trips suggests larger cultural trend,” an article covering the disproportionately low number of men showing interest in service learning trips. This article discussed the data from a cultural standpoint and revealed that this was more than just a problem for service learning trips.
According to Director of Service Learning Celia King, the ratio of women to men showing interest in the program is still about the same as it was two years ago.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
King had a suggestion made to her that “perhaps men would be more interested in participating in service learning if they understood the ability to get
academic credit for these experiences. And so we’ve changed some of our advertising to make sure that’s included.” Despite these efforts, she added, “I haven’t seen very many strong results.”
Well-known trip leaders may have an impact on whether or not men become involved. When men resident directors lead trips, more men who live in the residence halls show interest in their trips.
King is glad for this interest, but pointed out that “we have lots of other trips and trip leaders besides just our residence hall directors.”
Though these attempts have been made, interest levels have remained largely the same.
“We can only offer opportunities to any student for anything we do on campus. It’s up to the students to choose what to do about that,” explained King.
“In the case of service learning trips, I’d like to see more men take responsibility to experience cross-cultural interactions. I get that not everyone wants to travel, and that’s OK, but it would be helpful to hear what keeps them from it,” she said.
When King asks Malone men about trips, the responses mostly include “shrugged shoulders, and ‘I don’t know.’” She continues, “That’s the most frustrating part: a general unwillingness to even consider it.”
King firmly believes that that everyone benefits when men and women are working together, adding, “I wish that men would participate more.”
HEARING FROM THE MEN
Junior math and computer science student Kyle McClellan explained that his personal reasons for not taking part in service learning trips include the money issue and his own ignorance about the programs.
“As a general rule, if you want me to do something, you have to hunt me down,” he stated.
McClellan recognizes that his reasons are not specific to men, and pointed out what he sees as a much larger piece of the gender puzzle: “I think guys are more socially fragmented than girls.” he said.
McClellan said, “Guys have these particular groups. A guy from one group isn’t going to get along with a guy from another group, whereas girls just generally get along with each other.” He added, “I wouldn’t go if I was the only guy I knew going.”
Senior communication arts student Cale Short recalled the 2010 article.
“I was baffled. If they want more men to go, they’re obviously not doing a good job of showing it. I assumed that they are targeting the women,” said Short.
Getting deeper into the issue, Short said, “I think it’s a lot more fashionable for women. Ever since middle school, it’s helped your popularity to be a good Christian if you’re a girl. But for men, it’s not cool to be a God-centered person.”
In addition, “the majority of Malone men are not interested in this, in helping other people,” said Short.
IDEAS TO CONSIDER
Associate Professor of History Dr. Jay Case offers a larger perspective on the issue.
Case said, “Part of it is that we do not instill within guys the desire to serve…and that’s related to another, trickier problem, which is our notion of what it means to be male or female.”
As Case explained in the 2010 article, this is a larger, culture-wide problem.
“There’s an instinct that men are a certain way, and women are a certain way,” said Case.
Case explained that such claims are not biologically accurate. He believes that it would be helpful for both men and women to learn more about gender.
Considering additional ways to approach this problem, Case said, “I do not want to, across the board, blame guys.”
Case thought it would be helpful to encourage conversation and pose questions.
“The men on campus who have a Christian commitment…‘Look, what does it mean to be a Christian?’” said Case.
“Not all of them should sign up for service learning trips, but we do have men out there who probably have never asked this question of themselves before: ‘Does, perhaps, God want me to participate in service in some way and expand my understanding of the world in some way?’ And a service learning trip is one way to do that,” said Case.
Kim Farkas is a staff writer for The Aviso AVW.