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A New Kind of Service

A New Kind of ServiceWhilesome students may be afraid of the possibility of a military draft,a Tufts expert believes that compulsory national service may beworth it for both young adults and the country.Medford/Somerville,Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [10.14.04] The ongoing war in Iraqand the upcoming presidential election have focused attentionon the issue of a national draft. While the country isn’texpected to begin military call-ups anytime soon, the dean ofTufts’ University Collegeof Citizenship and Public Service says it may be time to institutea policy of compulsory national service that gives young peoplea choice between civic or military service.

“I thinkthe alternative that you lay out of what, in effect, would bea new kind of draft is not only a good idea. It's also a practicalidea. And it's an idea that the majority of Americans will support,”Dean Rob Hollister, the first recipient of the John DiBiaggioChair in Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts, recently toldAaron Brown on CNN NewsNight.

While somecollege students interviewed by CNN expressed mixed feelings aboutthe possibility of a draft, Hollister is convinced that many youngadults are interested in new opportunities for community and civilianservice – including “without question,” he adds,Tufts students.

“I thinkone of the best sources of evidence about the appetite, aboutthe willingness of young people to serve… are the deansof undergraduate admissions at colleges across the country,”Hollister told CNN. “In the thousands of admissions applicationsthat we read carefully each year that have shown over the last12 or 15 years a very clear rise in the proportion of young peoplewho already have done significant community service and who areexpecting that to be part of their college experience and beyond.”

Hollisteralso cited a 2003 study in which 56 percent of 1,001 high schoolseniors surveyed would support a national service system thatwould allow young adults to choose between military and civilianservice.

With the warin Iraq requiring active duty call-ups from National Guard andReserve forces, speculation about the renewal of the draft hasbeen high. It has been a topic of discussion in the presidentialdebates, where President George W. Bush has asserted that “themilitary will be an all-volunteer Army” and Senator JohnKerry has accused the Bush administration of running a “back-doordraft.”

Te cost ofenlisting young adults into compulsory national service may behigh, but Hollister believes the ends would justify the means.

“Thebenefits of that expense would be extraordinary both in termsof giving us the increased number of young people that we needin the military, but our urgent need in society for much largernumbers of people to help tackle our most critical community problems,”Hollister told CNN.

Hollisterand his colleagues are engaged in many projects aimed at promotingactive citizenship both at Tufts and in the surrounding community.Among the University College’s current initiatives are acampus-wide get-out-the-vote program and a film exhibit on theAsian diaspora. On October 1, the University College hosted aconference on higher education and civic engagement.



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