Progressive Picnic and the Importance of Campus Coalitions
August 25, 2014
Hi, I’m Aaron Friel, a student at the University of Northern Iowa and president of the UNI Freethinkers & Inquirers. We organized an event last weekend called Progressive Picnic; here was our elevator pitch:
It’s hard to believe, but the fall semester is just around the corner! Start the year off right by hanging out at the Progressive Picnic on Sunday, August 24th from 5-8 at Lawther Field at UNI. At the picnic, you’ll have a chance to hang out with leaders from all the great student orgs and members of the Progressive Coalition! Live music will be provided by local bands Peas and Carrot and Commons Collective, and we’ll have games like bags and MEGA JENGA. And all with refreshing sno-cones to keep you cool during move-in weekend. Everything is free!
Buried in that information-dense nugget is the line that needs to be repeated: “you’ll have a chance to hang out with leaders from all the great student orgs and members of the Progressive Coalition”. In our student org, we try to host numerous events every year with other, like-minded student organizations. Sure, we don’t always agree 100%, but on the issues that matter to campus LGBT organizations, we have their backs, and on issues like free expression and equal rights under secular government, they have ours.
These informal coalitions started years ago, and the relationship goes further than just hosting recruitment events. In terms of requesting funding from student government, we have more opportunities to ask for money. Under our funding guidelines, and maybe yours too, with cosponsors we can ask for more funds for bigger events. And in terms of representing our causes, members of the progressive coalition at UNI make up a large portion of the legislative body. That doesn’t hurt either.
At this year’s Center for Inquiry’s leadership conference, I heard a number of fellow leaders ask, “But, how do you go about making these coalitions?” From what followed, many of these questions seemed to really be, “What is the formal process, or framework for making a coalition on my campus?” At least at our university, there isn’t one! And it hasn’t stopped us, so don’t be dissuaded. Coalition building can happen informally, and I think, needs to start with a conversation. Talk to fellow student groups, go to their meetings, ask them what they want to accomplish. What starts informally, you can think about codifying later.
From one student leader to another, the only thing holding you back from starting a coalition on your campus is not having those conversations. Get involved, talk to them. Build coalitions!
President, UNI Freethinkers & Inquirers
About the Author: Aaron FrielAaron Friel is a quasi-traditional student in his fourth year studying mathematics and computer science at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). Before joining the student body at 23, he spent six years working as a software and IT consultant. He came to UNI after hearing about the UNI Freethinkers & Inquirers and attending their open mic discussion forum. He's now president of UNIFI, and organizes the campus' progressive coalition, bringing student orgs together to collaborate on progressive causes. He has a passion for progressivism and technology and believes in the power of combining the two. Find him at www.facebook.com/aaron.friel.
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