Affiliate Group of the Week

Affiliate Group of the Week #6: Secular Alliance at Indiana University

December 20, 2012

Our campus groups do great things every day of the week, and rarely get the recognition they deserve. CFI On Campus Affiliate Groups of the Week was started to help groups to get their name out there more publicly and share their successes with the world. Each week, we'll pick a group that's doing fantastic work to highlight.

Up this week is the Secular Alliance at Indiana University. Jessika Griffin, the group's current president, agreed to answer some of our questions and share their biggest successes.

FSM dinner
Members of SAIU at their yearly FSM fundraising dinner.

First, please introduce yourself. Where you go to school, graduation year, your background. What's your "atheist/secular conversion story," if you have one?
I'm Jessika Griffin, president of the Secular Alliance at IU (SAIU). I'm a senior and so close to earning a Bachelor of Science in Public Affairs degree. I grew up with a mostly catholic family and went to catholic school until 3rd grade. I don't think I was every really catholic. In fact, it took me a long time to realize religion class at catholic school wasn't story time. I started playing around with the idea of atheism my final year of high school. My first year at IU a girl who lived across the hall from me (who is still involved with SAIU!) had a business card posted to the bulletin board on her door. I went to a couple speaker events my freshman year and then stayed actively involved since my sophomore year. My junior year I was outreach director and I am now president.

How did your group get started? What year was it founded? Was there a specific event or incident that motivated you to create the organization?
SAIU was founded in 2008 when a few people came together after being upset that IU paid for a religious group's speaker. Additionally, there are many religious organizations on campus and having an organization specifically for those without a religion to connect helps nonreligious students build a community in college.

What is your group's name? How did you decide on that name?
SAIU was original the IU Humanists, but to be more inclusive all who are nonreligious the name was changed to the Secular Alliance at IU. A lot of planning went into the name and making sure other organizations did not have the same acronym, etc.

How many members does your group have? What kinds of events do you hold?
SAIU does not have formal membership or dues so we do not have an exact number of members. This current academic semester we have had 20-30 people at each of our weekly discussion meetings. Larger events, like lectures and presentations, have much higher attendance. Our email list has a huge number of subscribers and the facebook has many followers, however those numbers include those who have graduated and even supporters not affiliated with IU at all.

Aside from weekly "Russell's Tea Party " discussion meetings (named in honor of Bertrand Russell's teapot thought experiment) we have service events with local organizations like the Midwest Pages to Prisoners Project, social events like scavenger hunts, movie nights, and bowling, and we have hosted many speakers in the past. This semester we hosted August Berkshire for a talk on morality without god and IU cognitive science professor, Colin Allen, talking about morality in robotics There are several other exciting fundraising events, like send an atheist to church and the Flying Spaghetti Monster Feast. And we table about once a month for Ask an Atheist, Freethought Day, Anti-Homeopathy day, and more.


As an example, could you share one thing your group accomplished that you're most proud of in the past year?
I'm quite proud of our increased visibility on campus this year. Through tabling, chalking, posters, and connecting with other campus groups we have definitely made more people aware that SAIU exists. Our efforts in these areas this year have directly caused people to reach out to us. A writer for a magazine published on campus asked to interview SAIU members for a piece on "what happens when you die", a seventh grade teacher asked for SAIU members to present to his social studies class, and even some students have been using the group to help with the sociology and anthropology research!


saiu at cfiHow did you hear about CFI On Campus? How have you worked with CFI On Campus in the past, and how do you hope to work with us in the future?
We are very lucky to have a local CFI branch just 50 miles north of us. Reba and the whole CFI Indy branch are wonderful with helping us get materials like business cards, and sharing speakers with us so we can split the cost. The campus organizers in Buffalo are also the greatest people ever. Debbie and Dren guided me as outreach director, and now one of SAIU's own, Sarah, is there! A great benefit of having the campus organizers is that they provide a nice source of continuity. Even three years from now when SAIU's leadership and membership has completely turned over, the campus organizers will still be there to guide us!


Do you have anything else you'd like to add? What is your vision for the secular movement?
I'd just like to say that campus groups are so important. College students really want to change the world, and they totally can with the right resources! Student organizations are a great way to really do what you love, and SAIU is thankful for the resources CFI On Campus provides to help us make it all happen!

If you know of a group that you'd like to see featured here, please let us know at oncampus@centerforinquiry.net.

 

About the Author: Sarah Kaiser

Sarah Kaiser's photo

Sarah Kaiser is a field organizer for CFI On Campus. Prior to her work at CFI, she got her start in the freethought movement as the co-founder and president of the Secular Alliance at Indiana University, where she helped organize a nationally recognized atheist bus ad campaign and large campus speaking events. As an atheist, a feminist, and a small part of the universe's way of understanding itself, she is thrilled at the chance to help advance CFI's mission. On Twitter: @sarahebkaiser.

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