Next week, Concordia’s student population will vote on a fee levy for the Concordia University Volunteer Abroad Program (CUVAP). If passed, the fee levy will tax each student 35 cents per credit per semester to send a group of students to Uganda to build a village for orphaned children.
At first glance, it would seem that only the cold-hearted would vote against CUVAP. But there are many unanswered questions.
One of the program’s main goals is to facilitate an accredited student experience in order to raise the student population’s “global consciousness”. Let’s not overlook the fact that the students themselves are expected to foot the bill for this program, even though the university, as a money making corporate entity, will no doubt benefit greatly from the publicity that it brings to the school.
Perhaps the question of whether or not the organizers are conscious of the program’s own global effect is more important. CUVAP will cost the student body roughly $100,000 per semester, but will only benefit about 100 children in Uganda. If CUVAP were truly “globally conscious”, it might consider donating the money to a pre-existing NGO with a good track record. Instead, CUVAP plans to allow a select group of privileged undergrads to vacation in the misery of others while earning credits towards their degree.
In addition, CUVAP’s parent organization, SOS Children’s Villages, is treating it like just another corporate entity. It’s calling the proposed village “The Concordia Village” just as it has with airlines and banks. Wouldn’t the money be used more effectively if Concordia were to simply make a donation which could produce much-needed employment in the area?
As further evidence of this misguided approach, one of CUVAP’s two founding members, Peter Schiefke, is quoted in the Thursday Report as saying “We would take [the proposed village] to the next level: We’re not only building a student centre, it’s a public library for the community, an athletics and arts centre, schools and housing for the orphans. On top of that, all facilities would be solar-powered and sustainable.” This emphasis on the pet issues of North American students reinforces the appearance that this isn’t the best way to effectively aid those in need.
In the end, CUVAP will do more for the University’s public image than it will for Concordia students or Ugandan children. The administration should fund its own PR projects instead of asking students to pay for them.