Back to School: What Are Secular Students Up To?

By Lyz Liddell  

As students head back to school, the Secular Student Alliance is already working hard to make sure that secular campus groups are prepared for an awesome year!

Nonreligious students are a rapidly increasing demographic on college campuses. The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey shows that 22% of Americans under the age of 30 don’t identify with a religion. Informal estimates suggest that as many as 30% of college students are nonreligious. The national Secular Student Alliance office is hard at work to keep up with this rapid growth, offering support to our 272 affiliated campus groups–and that number is growing rapidly!

With all these secular students, we’re seeing a dramatic increase in requests for the services and resources we provide to SSA groups. As campus groups gear up for their fall activity fairs, we’ve filled dozens of requests for tabling supplies and business cards.  We’re sending our Group Starting Packets to students all over the country and beyond! Our affiliates are already asking us for help planning for speakers, debates, service projects, and more. 

Part of our work is to train this new generation of leaders to take on the challenges that await them. We’re always looking for new ways to reach our students, and this year we have exciting opportunities. Based on the phenomenal success we had with our Leadership Track at the AHA conference this past April, we’ll be holding similar SSA Leadership Tracks at major freethought events across the country. We already have events planned for Houston, Sacramento and Seattle to train students in those regions. We’re even launching a series of leadership webinars where students can get high-quality, hands-on training at no cost, from wherever they’re located, without having to leave their dorm rooms!

We have a few special projects in the works, too. Our team has worked out an arrangement with Matthew Chapman, producer of the recently-released feature film The Ledge, to allow students to screen the film on campus at a reduced rate. We’ve partnered with the Interfaith Youth Core to cosponsor the “Be Better Together for 9/11” service project toolkit. And this September will see secular students featured in the Journal of College and Character, an academic publication for student life and student affairs professionals. 

If you’re part of a local AHA chapter, chances are there’s a Secular Student Alliance affiliate group in your area. Reach out and get in touch! Student groups are great for cosponsoring events, finding new ideas for your group, or even just getting together for a pizza party. If you need advice or help finding a student group near you, we’re more than happy to help!

It’s an exciting time for secular students – and the entire freethought movement. Keep up with the students and the SSA on our website, and have a great school year!

Lyz Liddell is the director of campus organizing for the Secular Student Alliance.