- Secular Student Alliance
The Secular Student Alliance (SSA), founded in May
2000, is the only independent, democratically structured organization in the U.S. that serves the needs of freethinking high schooland collegestudents. The Secular Student Alliance is based in Albany, NY at the [http://humanistcenter.org/ Humanist Center] , which is owned by the [http://humaniststudies.org/ Institute for Humanist Studies] .
It is an educational nonprofit whose purpose is to educate high school and college students about the value of scientific reason and the intellectual basis of secularism in its atheistic and humanistic manifestations.
The SSA offers students and their organizations a variety of resources, including but not limited to leadership training and support, guest speakers, discounted literature and conference tickets, and thought provoking online articles and opinions.
The SSA also offers major long-term benefits both to the major secular national organizations and to their local affiliates.
Currently, the SSA has over 100 affiliates in North America and abroad, including groups in Africa, Europe, and Asia.
In 1996, a group of students raised their concerns regarding the need for a secular student movement. With the help of the
Council for Secular Humanism, the students founded the Campus Freethought Alliance(CFA). The CFA, while ostensibly an autonomous organization, was ultimately governed by the Council for Secular Humanism(CSH). With the volunteer commitment and ingenuity of countless students across the country and in many other parts of the world, the CFA made great strides in strengthening and uniting the secular movement at the campus level.
However, in 1999, the students on the democratically elected Executive Council of the CFA, along with many other students, faculty advisors, and off-campus supporters, came to realize that a national student organization could best fulfill its role only with true autonomy. As the CFA grew and matured as an organization, the exclusive relationship with the CSH quickly proved more detrimental than beneficial to the student movement. In April 2000, a majority of the members of the CFA Executive Council decided to become independent from the CSH. For this purpose a new, student-governed, national organization was founded: The Secular Student Alliance.
The launch of the SSA was met with healthy support from the secular community.
During its first month, SSA added prominent atheists and freethinkers such as
Dan Barker, Richard Dawkins, Molleen Matsumura, Edwin Kagin, Massimo Pigliucci, Lynne Schultz, Rob Boston, Mynga Futrell, Christopher Hitchens, and Wendy Kaminerto its advisory board.
The first major SSA event was in August 2000. Over 100 students and off-campus supporters met on the campus of the
University of Minnesota. The school was the home of one of the oldest secular student groups in the nation, the University of Minnesota Atheists and Humanists (since renamed [http://www.cashumn.org/ Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists] ), which was founded in 1991.
Through the SSA's nonpartisan nature and ability to channel young graduates into the national organizations, it built bridges among the secular community and reached new heights in the promotion of science, reason and free inquiry. In September 2000, the SSA officially joined the (now defunct) Coalition of the Community of Reason which later blossomed into the
Secular Coalition for America. The SSA also developed individual relationships with the Institute for Humanist Studies, American Humanist Association, Atheist Alliance International, American Atheists, Internet Infidels, the International Humanist and Ethical Union, the Gay and Lesbian Atheist and Humanist Alliance, and several other organizations.
That month, the
Freedom From Religion Foundationrecognized then Executive Director Gabriel Carlson for his outstanding contributions to the cause of reason via the SSA.
In 2002, the SSA participated in the largest single atheist event in recent memory: American Atheists' Godless Americans March on Washington. Executive Director August E. Brunsman IV delivered a speech where he extolled the importance of off-campus supporters getting to know their younger colleagues.
In 2003, the SSA became a democratic membership organization and, with major support from the
Institute for Humanist Studies, hired its first full-time worker, Robert J. Nekervis II, as Campus Organizer.
Since then, the SSA has had several other Campus Organizers, hosted several annual conferences, expanded services to campus groups, and strengthened ties to other national and international organizations. As of July 2008, the [http://www.secularstudents.org/affiliates SSA reported 135 campus affiliate groups] in the USA and eleven other countries.
The underlying purpose of the Secular Student Alliance is to bring about a society in which the ideals of scientific rationality, secularism, and human based ethics flourish. Whereas many other organizations already exist to spread these values to adult populations, the SSA focuses on fostering these values among high school and college students.
The mission of SSA is to organize, unite, educate and serve students and student communities that promote the ideals of scientific rationality, secularism, and human-based ethics. Specifically, we seek to support students and student communities that seek:
# To educate student activists to effectively run freethought organizations.
# To raise student awareness of issues of importance to the freethought community and the benefits of freethought.
# To educate the public and our own communities about the civil rights of atheists, agnostics, humanists and freethinkers.
# To defend the right of freethinking students to organize, meet and promote their views on high school and college campuses.
# To foster a cooperative environment where the freethought community works together to achieve shared goals.
# To influence existing communities such that, and create new communities in which, atheists, agnostics, skeptics, humanists and other freethinkers feel comfortable in their views.
# To educate the public and our own communities about the value of reason, science, critical thinking, skepticism, and openness to new ideas.
# To defend high education standards, especially when attacked by proponents of irrationality.
# To educate the public and our own communities about the value of human based ethics and compassion.
# To promote and encourage thoughtful and critical attitudes toward superstition, supernatural claims, pseudoscience and the paranormal.
# To promote positive and correct ideas about non-religious lifestyles.
# To raise critical awareness of religious extremism.
# To educate the public and our own communities about religious freedom and the separation of church and state.
# To educate the public and our own communities about the value of respecting people regardless of their religious views and learning to cooperate and coexist with them.
The Secular Student Alliance holds an [http://www.secularstudents.org/conference annual conference] .
In July 2005, the SSA created an online newsletter called the [http://www.secularstudents.org/enews eMpirical] . It currently has over 4000 subscribers.
The SSA has [http://www.secularstudents.org/node/120 three paid staff] .
*Executive Director, August E. Brunsman IV
*Senior Campus Organizer, Lyz Liddell
*Executive Assistant, Chelsea Van Valkenburg
The SSA also occasionally takes on paid interns.
The SSA has ten board members.
Hemant Mehta, Chair
*Phil Ferguson, Treasurer
*Becky Robinson, Secretary
*Mary Ellen Sikes
* [http://www.secularstudents.org The Secular Student Alliance]
* [http://www.secularstudents.org/node/154 A brief history of the Secular Student Alliance]
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