Starting a College Atheist Club in 20 Steps October 16, 2011

Starting a College Atheist Club in 20 Steps

Reading so many stories about religious or conservative colleges resisting the approval of an atheist club, I noticed what seems to be a pattern of 20 steps:

  1. Club applies to college Administration for approval.
  2. Silence for several weeks.
  3. Club inquires about application.
  4. Admin. says the deadline has passed for this semester.
  5. Club resubmits application early.
  6. More silence.
  7. Club inquires much sooner this time.
  8. Admin. says they are “reviewing” the application and the club’s statement of purpose.
  9. Club inquires every day.
  10. Admin. issues a terse denial of approval without explanation.
  11. Club demands explanation.
  12. Silence.
  13. College newspaper reports the club was denied approval without explanation.
  14. Admin. issues a lame, transparent, self-contradictory rationalization for the denial.
  15. Second college newspaper article makes Admin. look like hypocrites and bigots.
  16. Story begins to leak out to local newspapers and the blogosphere.
  17. Admin. sheepishly grants club approval.
  18. Club becomes popular, successful, brings college status with sought-after speakers.
  19. Admin. pretends they were supportive of the club all along.
  20. Every step is repeated at the next college just down the road.

Does that sound about right?

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  • Erik

    It sure is nice to have the admin’s support.

  • I don’t know if there was one at my school.  I was too old and busy for campus activity type stuff.  However, I’m pretty sure that starting one if it didn’t exist would be trivial.

  • Matthew A. Harmer

    I was lucky, I guess.

    1.  Decide to start a club.
    2.  The first prof I ask to be our advisor says, “it’s about time someone started a secular club.”
    3.  Talk to Lyz Lidell at SSA; it’s all gravy.
    4.  Submit constitution and application packet – no deadline.
    5.  Student Involvement Director says, “it’s about time someone started a secular club.”
    6.  Constitution approved eventually.  No problems, Student Court just lazy.  We’re a club now.
    6.5 And one of the Christian groups is our biggest supporter.
    7.  Join Student Senate, write bills for cash.  Get cash.
    8.  Next year, get a $500 budget.
    9.  Year after, get a $2700 budget.
    10. Putting in an $8000 budget request for next year.

  • Wow. That’s the way it ought to be. I’m very glad to hear your experience. Was this at a college or in an area that might be generally characterized as “liberal,” or “conservative” (whatever those terms might mean) or some other adjective? 

  • Email me if you’d like to collaborate. Our group has only been in effect since January. I’d love to share my binder/calendar information to make a “How-To Guide” with you.

  • Hi Kim, I don’t really have anything to offer in a collaboration. I’m a member of the Secular Students Alliance just to be supportive of them, but I haven’t been in college since final exams were written on clay tablets.

    I’m sure the SSA would be interested in your experiences, and a “How-To Guide” is a very good idea.  You can contact them here:

  • Erp

    I’m pretty sure the club at the university I work at had an easy road.  Certainly the Dean for Religious Life (aka University Chaplain) was eager to mention it in the booklet (and web page) about religious life at the university (and since it started with ‘A’ it is first on the list).  The university is liberal and non-denominational private; the first blessing of a same-sex union in the university chapel took place in the early 90’s.

  • Matthew A. Harmer

    Oswego County is one of the most conservative areas of New York, but the school is a blue dot in the center of the region.

  • Erik

    That’s a red dot for the rest of the world

  • I have event sign up sheets, fun holidays, charity ideas, event ideas, and guest speaker advice. We have been in effect since January and have won “Best New Student Organization 2011 and recently brought Richard Dawkins. While this all sounds great, we still faced some resistance of course. Not sure how many people would use it if I created a guide?

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