Atheist Group Denied Status at Northeastern University April 13, 2010

Atheist Group Denied Status at Northeastern University

Usually, all you have to do to get a campus group started at any university is fill out some paperwork — identify your officers, get a faculty sponsor, and agree to some basic rules (i.e. you promise not be be discriminatory, you won’t be a hate group, etc). Things like that.

You don’t need to be “recognized” by the campus in order to meet, but recognition opens the door to several perks — like free meeting space, the opportunity to apply for event funding, the chance to advertise on campus, and booth space during new student days.

At Northeastern University in Boston, an atheist group is having no luck, even after repeated attempts.

The reason they were rejected the first time (in Fall, 2008) was because of their proposed group name: Student Atheists at Northeastern (SANE). The Student Affairs Board found the implication offensive.

So the group’s former president, Andrew Groleau, tried again in Fall of 2009, this time using the name NU Free Thought Society.

That didn’t work, either, but for a different reason.

“I submitted all the proper paper work over a year ago with an amended constitution indicating our name change. After many attempts to even begin dialogue with Student Activities, we have gotten no where,” said Groleau.

The Student Activities Center has not received any paperwork from the NU Free Thought Society, Nyul said.

This year, the students are just moving forward without “official” status:

“It has gotten to a ridiculous point,” said Nick Loek, current President of the NU Free Thought Society. “I hate to say it, but we are giving up. We can function without their recognition.”

“We intend to continue being a part of campus with events like ‘Ask an Atheist Night’ and attend events with prominent speakers, however, these expenses are being covered from out of our pockets,” Loek said.

The Secular Student Alliance will try to get in touch with Nick to see how we can help.

Hopefully, this is just a miscommunication that can be remedied without much further drama.

(Thanks to Joe for the link!)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Mike

    Giving up in this situation should not be an option. We need to keep fighting for mainstream acceptance, and issues like this matter.

  • I understand the initial rebuffing, even though I agree with the “SANE” implication. Quite clever I might add and not even obviously constructed to imply anything, so it works great.

    But what exactly went wrong the 2nd time?

  • Drop the F from the second name’s acronym and you get “NUTS.” Maybe I’m not the only one who thought of this and someone things the group is taunting them now.

  • Hello, I am vice-president of NUFS, long time follower, and I can’t believe we made it all the way to Friendly Atheist!

    Please come show us some love at our new blog and Twitter:



  • Phoenix

    after reading a few articles about these sort of groups, I’m feeling encouraged to start such a group on my campus. Especially since the free speech area on our campus seems to be overrun with christian evangelists that seem intent with harassing students between classes and shoving free bibles in our hands. How would you suggest starting such a club, I’d rather not come across as a hostile group and I’m worried that would be the perception from the more religious people on my campus

  • Richard Wade

    I don’t think that this is innocent miscommunication, especially after so many sincere attempts and so much time. This looks like deliberate stonewalling by a bigot in the administration, and it should be publicly and loudly challenged. Call them on it. There is no legitimate excuse.

  • Greg

    Actually, if you think about it, calling it SANE shouldn’t cause an offensive implication:

    After all, any of the groups’ members would be in SANE! 😉

    Seems like pure and simple bigotry to me.

  • Microbiologychick

    I had no problems starting an Atheist club at East TENNESSEE State U. WTF is wrong with Northwestern?

  • Jonas

    >> WTF is wrong with Northwestern?

    That’s Northeastern, and sadly my Alma Matter.
    Yes — this is not something I would have expected from NU. Who at BU can we call?

  • stogoe

    The Student Activities Center has not received any paperwork from the NU Free Thought Society, Nyul said.

    Must have accidentally placed it in the cylindrical file drawer and then set it on fire. Honest mistake, happens all the time. I’m sure if they just submit the correct paperwork another half dozen times, somebody will eventually have to complain that the atheists are getting uppity, actually thinking they can fill out paperwork and have it be accepted, can you believe that?

  • Luther

    Perhaps God ate their paperwork!

    Here is another name: NU Godless, Atheists, and Deniers Society (NUGODS)

  • Chris

    I just realized the play on the acronym, and yay, first post ever.


    F in Nuts

    F’in Nuts.

    That’s classic.

  • Ubi Dubius

    I hope they get a receipt for the paperwork next time.

  • Rex


    Really appreciate your support of this group. I think that they should be encouraged to go back to the original name.

    I had a good conversation with my girlfriend once over the “atheist” label, where she was asking me if I had to use it for myself. I asked her if she was uncomfortable with it and she said that it carried negative and harsh implications.

    I replied that the stereotype is all the more reason for us to use that label, and CHANGE those stereotypes.

  • Slickninja

    SANE? That’s just classic. IHats off to the best acronym I’ve heard yet….

    With our case here at University of Oregon for Alliance of Happy Atheists, we had to jump through a few hoops but none were directed at us for being atheists, but rather atypical processes for recognition.

  • Dave B

    I’ll alert the BU Atheist society and see what we can do to help the folks at NE out. Maybe we can do something together.

  • Jennifer

    I think they should revert to SANE (totally agreeing with Slickninja) and protest the board that is refusing to acknowledge them. Perhaps the ACLU could help them out. Or maybe we need some email addresses for the board and we can flood them with support for the SANE.

  • Stephanie

    I am a member of this organization and I truly wish we could keep the name SANE. I proudly put it on my resume when applying for co-op jobs and while it might have hindered my chances of acceptance but I decided I didn’t want a job that would have a problem with my atheism and tendency toward rational thought. Northeastern has been completely ridiculous about our organization and that’s most likely due to their bias in favor of more greek life(disproportionately funded, I might add) and against anything even slightly progressive.

  • The Other Tom

    I attended Northeastern 20 years ago. I’m surprised to hear that they have a bias in favor of “greek life”, since when I was there they were seriously talking about eliminating “greek life” from campus altogether.

    I’m NOT surprised to hear that they’re mistreating a student group… my experience with the board that recognized and funded student groups was that it was poorly run and made stupid mistakes. Also, the university was founded by the YMCA and was thus originally a christian organization, and I felt this was still sometimes reflected in their conservatism.

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