Doane students and faculty have started putting together a new “religious” group on campus, or rather a non-religious group.
You may have heard about the various Christian groups on campus. You may have even heard of “Pagans About Living and Creating Energy”, or P.A.L.A.C.E., founded by Jean Chevalier. Now, though, there may be a new group, specifically for secular students. This group would be open to all different kinds of secular students, along with non-secular students who would like to learn more and show support.
Sarah Zulkoski, Director of Grants and Foundations Relations, has been contacting students to help her start a campus chapter of the Secular Student Alliance group. Coming up on her fourth year here at Doane, she has decided that it is time to bring students together in a new way. There was a table for this upcoming group at the Club Craze event last Tuesday. According to Zulkoski, ten people signed up during the event and it is likely that more students will continue to show interest in the group.
“This was definitely an area that was lacking on campus. Especially considering that there are growing numbers of young people that identify as non-religious. It just seems really important that they have a place where they can proudly identify who they are,” said Zulkoski about her reason for wanting to bring the group to Doane.
Doane has never had a group specifically for students with secular identities, making the Secular Student Alliance new and uncharted territory for Doane’s campus.
To many students, secular means the same thing as atheism. However, there are many secular identities, outside of atheism, that this new group wants to portray and represent.
“Secular identities fall across a large range of non belief systems. It’s not just atheist and agnostics. Also, what I think is most important is for more people to understand what secular values are. Once they can understand what secular people value, we can understand that we have a lot of commonalities.” Zulkoski said.
The Secular Student Alliance group could be a place for students to proudly identify themselves as well as a place for others to learn and gain a better understanding of secular identity.
The Interfaith Team on campus, ran by Leah Rediger, the director of Religious and Spiritual Life on campus, has shown great support for the upcoming group.
“Approximately 20% of our student population identifies as Secular or ‘None’. We are also seeing a rise in bias and harassment against the religiously unaffiliated, at the same time their numbers are growing among our young adult population,” Rediger said.
The new secular group will provide a safe space for these students to share beliefs, values and personal experiences without fear of harassment.
“Once we find out from the group what they would like to do, it’ll be fun to hold some of those events, and those will be for the whole campus and community,” Zulkoski said.
Zulkoski will be holding an informational event for the Secular Student Alliance Thursday, September 5th, from 11:30 to 12:30 pm at the beige desk. Students will be able to spin a wheel to learn more about secular identities and values. There will also be an option to sign up and learn more information about joining the new organization.