<p>The University is launching the brand new Student Impact Committee to help student volunteers understand philanthropy and its impact on the University of Melbourne community. While this presents an opportunity for deeper student engagement, some students have criticised the lack of financial remuneration.</p>
The University is launching the brand new Student Impact Committee to help student volunteers understand philanthropy and its impact on the University of Melbourne community. While this presents an opportunity for deeper student engagement, some students have criticised the lack of financial remuneration.
University of Melbourne director of alumni and stakeholder relations, Dr James Allan, says these roles will be on a voluntary basis.
“We’re looking for people who want to make a difference to the community around them, while learning new skills that will help them in their future careers,” Allan said.
Allan explains that the Student Impact Committee will provide support and professional development to students alongside valuable skills in negotiation, project management, fundraising and public relations, in addition to the connections offered through the program.
The committee will try to communicate the opportunities philanthropy has afforded the University, deepen the student body’s understanding of its impact, and consult students regarding the future philanthropy within the community. This is loosely based upon previous programs such as Student Appeal which was run by students who collected funds for those in need within the University.
“Like most universities, the University of Melbourne has an Advancement team who are tasked with engaging our alumni and friends in the work of the University, including seeking support in the form of financial donations,” Allan explained.
Edmund Kwong, who worked with Student Appeal for five years before co-chairing the project in 2013, similarly outlined the roles and differences between student volunteers and the University’s paid staff.
“The program itself was a leadership program involving managing teams and raising funds, and was purely voluntary,” Kwong said.
Desi Soetanto, who co-chaired Student Appeal from 2014 to 2015, explained that the appeal was one of her university highlights.
“The fact that we were able to empower the lives of those who are less fortunate was a really rewarding experience,” Soetanto said, adding that the lack of payment was not an issue for her.
Despite these positive experiences, a former student, who wishes to remain anonymous, raised concerns that this opportunity mirrors the growing trend of unpaid internships.
The student, who has worked for the University, said that proper compensation for students can be beneficial for campaign marketing.
“The University can say with pride that they are training students, and properly compensating them because it recognises the benefits this compensation can have for student welfare and career opportunities in the future,” the student explained. Conor Clements, University of Melbourne Student Union education (public) officer, said this program is “fundamentally less accessible for students with a lower socio-economic background”.
“I’m not opposed to volunteering in principle; there are a wide range of things that can be achieved through volunteering, and I think it can be a great source of pride in communities, but when the University are paying senior staff as much money as they have and continue to do, I consider it ridiculous that students in these roles aren’t going to be paid for their services,” Clements said.
“If you help reduce barriers to such opportunities for poorer students, they will likely be the ones working harder to support the cause because they know how much impact even a small amount of support can have on one’s livelihood.”