Governor: ‘We’re all in need’

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January 22, 2008

3:06 PM

p. A $3 million budget cut for the College will not impede its nation-leading commitment to international and domestic service.
That’s what Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine told The Flat Hat after he spoke to students last Friday about the value of service in the University Center atrium.

p. “I think they’re already showing it,” Kaine said when asked if student service organizations would be able to cope with the state-mandated 6.25 percent budget cut for the College. Kaine said that while he had no plans to provide funding in his budget for service organizations, the College would still be able to continue its “civic engagement,” both domestically and internationally.

p. “The economy goes up and down,” Kaine said, stressing the importance of statewide fiscal sacrifice. Kaine has already cut more than 300 million dollars in spending to balance the Virginia budget, but said he planned to implement “capital expansion
plans” to alleviate the state’s financial crisis, which includes a predicted $641 million shortfall at the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

p. Little was spoken Friday about the cuts and what — if any — effect they would have on student volunteer services. The event was meant as a pep talk for the College’s volunteers.

p. “Gov. Kaine has been an avid supporter of [the College’s] service efforts having met with students involved in service activities on several occasions the past three years,” said Dr. Drew Stelljes, the Director of the office of Student Volunteer Services.
Stelljes also said that Kaine met with leaders of various service organizations before his speech Friday.

p. “I am certain he is impressed,” Stelljes said.

p. In terms of service, the College needs little goading; according to the OSVS, it has the most international service trips per year — 19 in all — of any College in the country and is the fifth largest producer of Peace Corps volunteers among medium-sized universities. That is, according to Provost Geoffrey Feiss, the highest number of Peace Corps volunteers per capita of any research university in the United States.

p. Funding may be a different story. While the College has received generous support for its volunteer work, the increasing number of service trips, while welcomed by the College, has put a strain on available funds.

p. “We received an infusion of financial support four years ago and at the time, with three international trips, the funding was significant. Now with close to 20 trips, the same funding is spread among the trips and therefore leaves each trip responsible for the vast majority of fundraising,” Stelljes said. “We are all working diligently to find significant sources of funding for the [international
service trip] program.”

p. Stelljes remains enthusiastic about the College’s growing service community, which he continually describes as a “movement.”

p. “We now have more international service trips than any other school, It is an accomplishment we are all so very proud of. With additional funding we can examine the social, cultural, and political influences of the region we are working.”

p. On Friday, student volunteers seemed largely enthusiastic, with many carrying “I love Kaine” posters and wearing the T-shirts of their respective organizations.

p. Kaine was accompanied and introduced by College president Gene Nichol, who said that he was “honored to report an explosion of civic engagement, of public service, of advanced citizenship, of applied, ennobling learning that owes both credit to this ancient university and its historic commonwealth.”

p. The governor was also joined by Judd Kennedy ’08 and Jeree Harris ’08 and the event’s emcee, Cosmo Fujiyama ’07, who returned from her non-profit work in Honduras to lead the night’s discussion.

p. Fujiyama — who co-founded the charitable organization Students Helping Honduras — said that the forum would allow Kaine, Nichol and the entire nation to see the extent of the service in what she called “our tiny but lively ’Burg, the best ’Burg of Virginia.”

p. In his speech, Kaine reflected on his own years of international service, when he left Harvard Law School in his second year to work in a Honduran Catholic school, teaching students welding and carpentry skills.

p. “[The trip] was tremendous in personal growth and spiritual growth,” Kaine said. “It changed my whole life.”

p. One of the most important values Kaine gained from his time in Honduras was humility, saying that all people find themselves in need, not just those in third world countries.

p. “We may think we got the whole package: education, family, health, resources or whatever,” Kaine said. “You do have to be humble enough to recognize that we’re all in need, and we’re all in need of help from somebody else.”

p. Kaine honored the College for its role in public service, but expressed “pessimism” over declining voter turnout in local and national elections. He responded to Kennedy’s question on the role of the university in fostering democratic activism and social responsibility.

p. “We’re on the path of creating a new form of government” where everyone has a choice regarding their government, but no one wants to make one.

p. “Education can further selfishness, it can further your ability to insulate yourself off from the problems that other people experience in the world or it can give you a great ability to get the skills you can use to serve others,” Kaine said.

p. Kaine also fielded questions on the environment and his stance on the controversial Sex Workers’ Art Show, which was recently allowed funding by the Student Assembly Finance Committee.

p. “I gotta admit I’m a little out of the loop,” Kaine said, having never heard of the event or its surrounding controversy. “If colleges are not places of strongly different points of view, than we don’t learn how to be in an environment with strongly different points of view,” he added.

p. After the event, Nichol and Kaine had dinner with Jim and Barbara Ukrop, prominent donors of the College who graduated in 1960 and 1961 respectively. Nichol would not mention the topic of conversation, but said that he “was always interested in talking to friends of the College.”

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