University will verify half of service hours

Administrators will verify at least half of the community service hours logged by community members on the newly launched VolunteerMatch Web site, a University official said last week.

More than 8,000 hours were logged on the VolunteerMatch site as of Friday afternoon, but University spokeswoman Emily Cain said these hours will not be added to the Michelle Obama challenge total – which stood at 19,000 hours prior to the VolunteerMatch launch – until they are verified.

“In order to ensure the accuracy of the count and verify that the system is being used appropriately, we are conducting a review of the hours submitted to date and will wait until that review is complete before issuing an updated hours tally,” Cain said.

Titi Williams-Davies, special projects manager for Student and Academic Support Services, said the University will e-mail the contacts that students list when logging their hours to verify that the student actually went to the service event and stayed for the amount of hours reported.

As of yet, the University has not created a disciplinary policy for students who forge community service hours through VolunteerMatch.

Williams-Davies said the University is holding its members to the honor system, adding that the University will verify at least 50 percent of the hours logged to ensure the tally is accurate.

“We have to audit 50 percent, and that’s not even because we don’t trust students, that’s because in order for it to be statistically accurate, we have to check,” Williams-Davies said.

She added that the University has not yet made any decisions on disciplinary procedures for people who fake hours.

“We are hoping we won’t ever have to approach it,” Williams-Davies said. “In the coming weeks, I think we just want to get over the launch and then go over the possible scenarios.”

Senior Taylor Mohylsky said he thinks it’s disappointing that people would attempt to overstate the hours they serve, but said he is resigned to the fact that people will always try and game the system.

“Of course, people are going to exaggerate the number of hours they do no matter what,” Mohylsky said. “I think that’s just immoral. But people are going to do it no matter what. You can’t really punish them for lying. That just sucks that people would do that.”

Cain said to make sure that the University satisfies Obama’s challenge, the University will work with various student, faculty and staff groups to promote community service.

To help this goal, Robert Chernak, senior vice president for SASS, recently announced a $20,000 fund to disperse among students with creative plans for community service work that require financial support. The Student Association is responsible for doling out this money, and Chernak said funding will begin to be issued beginning in the spring semester.

“Judging by the success of this first week using VolunteerMatch, we are confident the GW community is up to the challenge put forth by the first lady,” Cain said. “We are making progress towards our goal of 100,000 hours, but we still have a ways to go and need everyone to report their service hours through VolunteerMatch.”

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