New Video Series for Secular Student Group Leaders

Admittedly, this is total shameless self-promotion. However, it’s done with the intention of trying to help. 

Gordon Maples and I (Kelley Freeman) have started a video advice series for the leaders of Secular Student Alliance affiliate groups. We are both alumni of really strong SSA groups with at least six or seven years of group running experience between us. While this is not an official project of the Secular Student Alliance, we want this to be as helpful as possible and we take questions on Twitter (or in the comment sections of the YouTube videos).

We plan on doing a video every Monday night at 7:30p (ET) — and they are Google Hangouts on Air so they are live! So far, Gordon and I have covered starting your own secular group on campus and tabling effectively. This coming week, we will be talking about how to run meetings and choose meeting topics.

These videos shouldn’t last much longer than half an hour each week. Occasionally, we’ll have other experts on to talk about topics (Hemant has promised to show up at some point)!

Here is our latest video, about tabling:

If you have any questions you want us to tackle, you can send a tweet to Gordon (@SouthernHeathen) or me (@ramenneedles) or use our hashtag #HelpMeAtheists! You can also subscribe to our channel here and like us on Facebook :)

(P.S. We are temporarily using the name “Secular Start Up”! If you think of something more clever, please let us know.)

About Kelley Freeman

Kelley is a recent graduate of the University of South Carolina. She is a former president of the Secular Student Alliance at the University of South Carolina and a former intern for both SSA and Foundation Beyond Belief. Kelley is also a board member for both Camp Quest South Carolina and the Carolinas Secular Association, a Volunteer Network Coordinator for the southeastern region for the SSA, runs a vlog series called Secular Start Up, sometimes does stand up comedy and can crochet like a fiend. She's on her way to becoming a Jane of All Trades. Follow her on twitter @ramenneedles

  • LizBert

    I hope it’s really helpful, I like the idea of SSA groups but my experience with the one at my university was horrible. It really put me off from getting involved with other secular/atheist/skeptic groups.

  • PA_Year_of_the_Bible

    How so?

  • PA_Year_of_the_Bible

    Don’t forget some practical advice, such as preparing for wind at outdoor events (paper weights, rubber bands, duct tape, canopy weights, etc). Also things such as trash bags for staff use.

  • abb3w

    Letting people know what things put you off might help other groups recognize what triggers that sort of reaction, potentially helping to reduce it. The most obvious downsides of speaking out I’d broadly call variation and persuasion resistance.

    By variation, I mean to suggest that some groups may not care (sorry), or may decide that the particular items you highlight have other impacts considered sufficiently beneficial to outweigh the harm of a few people like you finding the experience horrible, or may try alternatives that are even less helpful; “mileage may vary”. With a bit of luck and a little time, selection is likely to thin the variation and improve the results.

    By persuasion resistance, I mean to suggest that some people who do those sorts of things will consider the list a set of personal attacks, and respond by personal counter-attacks. Trying to emphasize the list’s subjective and descriptive nature, and minimize claims to objective prescriptivism, seem likely to reduce the chances of triggering the next Elevatorgate. (If you’re inclined to set one off, I’d caution that it seems likely there’s some point of diminishing returns.)

    I’ll also note that just as there seem to be different types of atheist, there appear to be different types of secular/atheist/skeptic groups, plausibly from a difference in concentration of the types of atheists composing them. If you look somewhere else, you might find another group out there more to your taste.

  • LizBert

    Several members of the group were hostile to religious but questioning people who came to meetings and really to anyone who didn’t fall in line with their way of “doing” atheism. But for me the biggest problem was the overt misogyny of the president of the group. I don’t want to get into an argument about atheists and sexism, I’m just saying that in this situation I was made to feel uncomfortable and chose to leave.

  • LizBert

    I might find another group elsewhere, but likely not in my community. I attend a small school in a conservative state. I’m not a fan of conflict and I made my objections known but when I was told they were not important I left.

  • abb3w

    I was thinking more of sharing on-line (EG, here) what the problems were, as it seems more likely groups other than the local one would be more willing to consider the objections, being less proximate. Contrariwise, there’s a risk of such sharing triggering an argument in response that would do nothing to improve your disposition.

    Nohow, yes, a small community and a conservative state indeed make it unlikely to find another near where you currently live.

  • abb3w

    You might find Robert Altemeyer’s The Authoritarians of interest; he also has done some studies with Bruce Hunsberger on (ir)religious transitions and atheists specifically. The data in Altemeyer’s work empirically shows that atheists tend very low on the RWA “authoritarian follower” scale, but the data seems consistent with (but did not empirically test, nor did they make) a conjecture that irreligious deconverts tend higher on the Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) “authoritarian leader” scale — which correlates to prejudice against groups traditionally derogated (rather than dangerous), and in turn explaining the pattern of misogyny (as women are one such derogated group). My subjective impression is that the atheist/skeptic groups tend heavy on the low-RWA/high-SDO types.

    Not that recognition and naming this pattern gives much help in treating it as a problem. But yeah, it’s a widespread issue. The good news is that there’s ongoing national and international attention being given to the issue; the group is probably going to face increasing blow-back, and the odds are that the next group you encounter will be a little more sensitive.

    I’d also suggest that you might consider finding the group’s by-laws, and check to see if there’s a semi-democratic process for determining the leadership. Depending on the thresholds needed for voting, you might want to make sure you engage in the token participation needed to qualify to vote, to be able to raise the issue at the next election and at least try to improve the chance the next president is marginally less misogynist. On the other hand, I can entirely understand that you might not consider the benefit worth that effort.