I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, but things finally became clear last week with a full illustration of the power of love. Love that can make even someone without a “Super-Flex” uniform and muscles as a bear’s go out with them, off campus, and without pay, hours, or even any officialdom, work with them.
I was there for another reason last week, assisting dozens in the paid activity of catering and in some way sharing in the work of the “Super-Flex – Super-Team” as we helped them tear down tables from an event attended by hundreds. There were too many to count, though I knew them all, pushing a cart laden with dozens of chairs, moving first one way around Andreas, then another way past Joe, then ducking quickly to avoid ramming my cart into Ben’s. But then – around the corner – I saw her. Her? What was she doing. I mean no un-charity. No, none at all, but she wasn’t supposed to be there, was she?
He was there. That was why. But it remained a marvel how the power of love had transcended departments, policy, and protocol, self interests, location, and time. She was volunteering for something for which others were being paid. And as I had already started to induct from other particulars, she was only the metaphorical tip of the iceberg, a point on an extended line.
For I was similarly made aware of a classmate “volunteering” at breakfast. Now he is one to wander around, as he has often made clear, but waking up, wandering through a locked door or past the business that is the production of breakfast in Frassati. He had been there last year I guess, so it wasn’t trespassing in the same manner as it would be for most other people, but with the workload of sophomore year, why? Was it for the Andreic pose of unlocking the cafeteria door, appearing behind with a cup of tea, a swoop of the hand and his trademark pose with the timeless Andrew face? As he said directly to a class just after he did it once, he was “volunteering” in the sense of helping without cause, agreement or pay, as opposed to “filling in” or “subbing” so there is no help from the typical answer to seeing someone doing something unexpected.
And for Andrew, this was not an isolated one off incident, but something that has happened repeatedly over the past weeks, seeing the “phone-breaking face” time and again at 7am. The most detail he gave with reference to this practice was that “this is what skipping your humanities reading allows you to do” but this answer gives no evidence or explanation with reference to cause.
Relatedly, Michael Rose, in his position as king (or tyrant) over Frassati Hall, was known to work last year in a similar fashion. Of course he was in the kitchen as a supervisor for baking, but he worked far beyond the typical extent of that position, almost doubling the typical hours by popping up in Frassati again and again and again at all hours of the day to “sub” for others, even, we hear, when no one was missing from a shift. Yet he rarely, barely, counted these extra hours, making them, in effect volunteerism. Dominic Tinot was similarly known last semester to do much the same as Michael Rose and Andrew, helping and accompanying another outside of the scope of his work, in such things as carrying trash bags to a dumpster, helping the one he accompanied in washing dishes, and the like. Other cases abound, though these are the most obvious, and with “the gymnastic dance of clandestine working” also being a thing last semester, we suspect that this state of unofficial volunteerism was even more common than any have suspected.
Now things have heated up even more this semester, with the launch of the Dolce Ice Cream Shop. A certain six or so people worked there officially while it was open, a number we’re unsure of due to what has happened, but beyond that number, it seems that just about everyone has found their way into working there in some capacity. Walk in any evening near closing and you find someone new washing dishes, sweeping, counting the money, or closing down the place. And it’s not because they’re working there, as the people officially working there, while surprising many according to the particulars, including us here at IIT, has remained the same. Rather, people just find themselves voluntarily or involuntarily working there unofficially.
Take, the Friday before matriculation for example, when numerous sophomores were pressed into moving their ice cream into the “recently discovered” basement, for example. The numerous nights when Louisa and Sophie have found themselves running the store entirely. Numerous cases of someone helping their older sibling close down the shop, or a dater helping their dated with the same. “Pretty much everyone knew how to get in, because they were asked, or had to at some point,” commented freshman Curtis Shine of Massachusetts. “And only those who actually worked there could officially get credit for it, but the free ice cream I got a few times for being around was certainly nice,” continued he.
In a similar fashion to Michael Rose’s not-counting extra work conducted within his own genus of assignment last year, we have similar reports such as one freshman who says he could “count an extra two hours of work each week easily.” He’d be “so far ahead of his hours” if he “fully counted everything, though” so he just doesn’t and rather “rounds everything down to stay under 150.”
Another similar concept that’s been seen this semester is the idea of doing extra work and counting the extra toward someone else’s quota. “It’s a little awkward and I have to be quiet about, but I did it a lot unofficially last year and it’s for the good of the community as a whole,” said one student on condition of anonymity but with a bright face and “very excited” attitude.
Other projects have been increasingly moving into a “mandatory volunteer” basis. Painting the horse barn was, for example, a volunteer job accomplished by four sophomore rockers on a Saturday with the Horsemanship director and exorcist assistant, Mr. Suarez. Accompanied as the help was by a request for a similar but continuing “physical help” to augment Theo and Esau who have positions officially helping Suarez, we see the school pushing to continue and expand this trend of volunteerism in a place where it is highly needed due to the increased complexity and corresponding workload of the expanded and improved horsemanship program this year.
Although the fact that there was a request here for help suggests a requirement by the school to so volunteer, the horsemanship case still offered a choice. So, likewise, even in a more extreme case where one would assume a request for total volunteerism to make up for a shortfall, dish-washing in the Frassati cafeteria, their is one case where it is up to the individual to choose to volunteer or to work for pay. Extreme dish count has pushed dish-washing from dinner to finish close to 8:30 every night as opposed to 8:00 and while some have chosen, as with this trend, to simply only count their worked time until 8:00 and “volunteer” the extra half hour, one student’s opinion shows that they truly do have a choice here.
Questioned on the subject, David Gleason told us: “If they force us to volunteer to work extra hours we will go on strike and no dishes will be washed and the Syv swag will strike along with us.” Now no strikes have happened, so its easy to conclude that their was no “force” used to “work extra hours” and as David told us, Syv allows them to count the extra half hour every night. Nor, of course, has the extreme threat David has heard of students playing the son “Raining Tacos” continuously in administrative offices “until justice is served” materialized so we see some outside the social trend of volunteerism able to continue to do so without any repercussions.
For the majority of students, however, even without any use of force, but rather some sort of internal change and acceptance, volunteerism is becoming the way forward. Personally, I see nothing wrong with this, with students becoming more and more involved and helpful in their school. In fact I’ve participated personally in this volunteer culture at WCC in ways like many of those I’ve described. However, in the face of a corresponding “fake work” notion that’s been noted by many school observers as becoming a problem, it’s important to realize how ambitious, generous, and motivated student rockers are compensating. Perhaps it’s a bit socialist, but the fact that it’s working (except for reports of extreme under-staffing and need in the kitchen) shows a development, a maturing, of the rocker spirit, to move beyond oneself. That so many are choosing to act for the good of the community as a whole shows that the guiding principles of the school’s Philosophical Vision Statement are starting to be lived out in the everyday, that the 54-page document, the “Constitution” in a sense to our community is entering the souls of our classmates.
While it’s a question of whether there’s a larger risk from all this, that we face losing the unifying humor, rocker spirit, and personal ambitions that also contribute much to the good and beauty of our community, that’s for the future. For now, let’s recognize those greats of this new culture and the good it is doing for the good of our community. Let’s be thankful for those among us like Michael Rose, Andrew, Emily, Curtis, David, and all who, day-by-day, get thing’s done, regardless of self benefit or aggrandizement.
Maybe they’ll encourage us to be more like them!