Where the Boys Are: Not the COVE



Despite the popularity of the Center for Outreach, Volunteerism and Education (COVE) on campus, there has been a large under-representation of men participating in these groups. The COVE and volunteers such as senior John Sweeney have recently taken on an initiative to change the disproportion.

According to data collected at this fall’s student activity fair and from COVE group leaders, 16.7 percent of students who signed up for COVE groups and approximately 25 percent of students who actively participated after signing up were male.

“Men are half the population at Colgate,” Sweeney said. “We are missing out on many potential volunteers.”

Sweeney began working with the COVE midway through his sophomore year when his friend convinced him to attend a Habitat for Humanity service trip to Tennessee over winter break. The COVE then approached him to help plan future alternative break trips to locales such as Hilton Head and New Orleans. At the end of his junior year, Sweeney applied for the COVE 2007-2008 internship.

As a COVE intern, Sweeney now helps plan activities with First-Year Experience, such as the First-Year Day of Action, to inspire members of the first-year class to dedicate time to volunteerism. Sweeney also works closely with the Community Action Outreach Opportunity (CAndOO) living-learning community, as well as all COVE groups that need extra assistance.

Sweeney is currently compiling information about male involvement in COVE groups to better assess how the center can encourage more men to participate. Information will soon be distributed around campus about this information.

“We want to make everyone aware of the COVE,” Sweeney said.

Traditional gender roles have played a large part in students’ choices of COVE groups. While men are well-represented in emergency service groups such as the Hamilton Volunteer Fire Department and Southern Madison County Volunteer Ambulance Corps, they are largely absent in groups that work closely with community members and children, such as Hamilton Elementary Tutoring and Sidekicks.

According to Sweeney, more male involvement could only improve the output of these programs.

“With a group like Sidekicks, it’s very different for a woman to mentor a young boy than it is for a man to mentor him. There’s a different response from the child and a different relationship builds,” Sweeney said.

However, the COVE is not just looking for an increase in male involvement, but an overall increase in participation in volunteerism throughout the Colgate community, regardless of gender.

Sophomore Max Counter, who is the sole male representative on the Colgate Hunger Outreach Program’s leadership board, concurs with this goal.

“I suppose it would be great to have more male volunteers in the COVE not specifically because they’re male, but because we could always use more people,” Counter said.