AS-L Fellowship follow-up

Not surprisingly, when I presented my syllabus proposal to the AS-L director, one of her main complaints was that I included for-profit businesses as a potential outlet for project sponsors. But here is the kicker, she correctly identified that in reality, there is little difference between a for-profit and a non-for-profit except a legal definition. Yet she refused to accept that service-learning can include service to a large for-profit business. She tried to leave wiggle room for small start-up businesses, with some sort of pseudo claim that they directly help the local community. But the arbitrary distinction can not be supported by any rational argument. By her own standards, she can't support her distinction. I could easily counter that companies such as Ford and GM have a much greater impact on the local economy in southeast Michigan than an small business. If building a free web site for them (granted it would probably be a tiny subset of their overall web services) could help them save even a couple bucks at a time they desperately need to save money, how is that not a service to the local community? I don't believe that the focus on the "local community" is legitimate, but she does and by her standards she can't support her argument.

In addition, we obviously have a different definition of service. For me, any consulting is a service activity. An academic project that provides a service to any organizations is an academic service learning project. Galt, how I hate how deeply the altruistic doctrine has corrupted academia.

That being said, I expect nearly all of the sponsors to come from non-profits, university organizations, and small businesses. But there is no reason for me to limit for whom my students build websites, except that it must be some sort of organization.


  1. Thank you for relating this situation. I find fascinating the fact that a seemingly narrow issue--Whom shall we serve?--potentially calls up other, previously unstated issues, and fundamental issues at that. Here they are epistemology (how should one form a concept and how should it relate to the rest of one's knowledge), altruism, and collectivism.

  2. Yep. One bad idea leads to another bad idea. Its amazing how fundamental philosophic issues relate to everything.