Sunday, October 2, 2011

Musings from the RSO Fair

First Years visiting the SA table
Last Friday was the Registered Student Organization Fair, in which all the RSOs on campus advertise themselves to other students, bribing them with free food, free information, and listhost sign-ups. The Secular Alliance was no exception... we were out there as well, gathering new minions recruits.

Look at all the interest!
Now, in general, spending 4 hours sitting at a table attempting to attract interest over the other couple hundred RSOs is not my idea of a good time. But this RSO fair was definitely worth it. We got a broad range of responses from "Huh. I didn't know we had a Secular Alliance. Cool." to "I was starting to think we didn't have a group for atheists/agnostics/seculars/non-religious students" to "Hey, my peeps! Sign me up!" to "Is this ironic? Are all the Jews at this school atheists?" to "Why are you in the middle of the religious organizations?" A full page and a half of students (nearly 50 individuals) signed up for the listhost and took information about the first meeting. For a campus of around 5000 undergrads that claims to be approximately 70% secular, it's still a low number, but considering that the group consisted of 8 active members its first year and around 12 last year, this is a massive increase in interest. If even half of these new students stick around, we'll have tripled in size.

This is particularly exciting because this is the year we really hope to expand our presence on campus and in the community. We have great ideas for weekly meetings, and big plans for regular church visits, social dinners, community service, debates, and speakers from the secular movement. We want to get our name out there as a place for non-religious students at the University of Chicago to come and hang out. Sometimes, we'll discuss topics in science, critical thinking, atheism, politics, and personal identity. Other times, we'll watch silly YouTube videos with a secular slant. We hope to create a safe space where everyone can feel welcome and open to talk about religion (or a lack thereof), and fill the void left by a lack of religious community. And the more students who know about it, the better we'll be able to meet those goals.

Secretary Alicia and President Chana welcome you to SA
So, for those of you returning to the Secular Alliance, welcome back. To all the new potential members, welcome. We hope to see all of you at the first meeting, and throughout the year.

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