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A student group is a great way to involve yourself in campus life without having to resort to fraternities/sororities.  They provide opportunities to meet like-minded individuals in most walks of life.  They usually feature social events, debates, service projects, and roundtable discussions


How to start your own.  As the president of a reasonably-popular student group at my university, I can offer several suggestions to those who are thinking about starting an activist group of some sort on their college campus.

  1. Network.  Is there already another group in existence that has similar views?  If so, it would be wise to integrate yourself into that group before deciding that another organization is needed.  For example, if you wanted to start a campus group for atheists, then you should probably visit your campus's Objectivism club or philosophy club.  If you want to start a gamer's club, then you should visit your computer club.  This will help you to find other people who are interested, because a campus group is nothing without a bit of biomass.
  2. Talk up the idea.  Okay, you've decided that your group is definitely needed.  Now you have to convince others of this.  Talk to some of the people you met while visiting these other clubs and find out if they are interested.  If even people who agree with you feel your student group is unnecessary and foolish, perhaps you should take up underwater basketweaving or co-ed naked ping pong.  But if there seems to be a demand of any sort, gather some phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and names.  You definitely want to find at least three other people--you'll probably be required to have a President, a Vice President, a Treasurer and a Secretary.
  3. Find a faculty advisor.  This is going to be the tricky part.  You might be able to get help from similar-but-not-identical student groups by talking to their faculty advisors.
  4. Visit your university's "Office of Student Affairs" or the equivalent.  All public universities are almost guaranteed have one.  Get information on the student group formation process, because it varies from university to university.
  5. Have weekly meetings--on campus if possible, off-campus if not.  My university requires a faculty advisor's endorsement before any classroom can be reserved.  It might be possible to simply find an unlocked classroom that isn't in use during the evenings.  Pick a building that everyone knows about, including clueless freshmen.  I also highly recommend a formal meeting followed by a trip to a restaurant--this provides some structure without killing the social aspect.
  6. Join national organizations.  Want to promote freedom of speech?  Affiliate with the ACLU.  Want to spread the love of Jesus?  There's always the Campus Crusade for Christ.
  7. Try for Student Government funding.  Get on your treasurer's tail and tell him to submit a simple budget--Student Government LOVES to spend your activity fees, you might as well get some of it to help pay for that dunk tank.  Don't go overboard though--they don't HAVE to fund you.
  8. Promote the hell out of the club.  Tabling is a common way of doing this: visit your local department store, and purchase a card table for $30.  Make a sign.  Get some pamphlets.  Take your sign, your pamphlets, your table, and a chair to a heavily-trafficked area of the campus and spend the day handing out pamphlets.  As your club grows, you'll be able to push this off onto newer, more idealistic members, which is good, because you have to remember to...
  9. Groom new members for officer positions.  Remember that you'll only be there for about four years, depending on your major and your grad school plans.  If you and your VP and your Secretary all graduate in three months, that isn't a lot of time to prepare your Treasurer for the role of President AND find three new people to step in.
  10. Remember--your student group shouldn't be about you.  It should be about providing service to your fellow students--it is THEIR student group, not yours.  Listen to what those around you are asking for and do what you can to make your club fun, and your group will survive for many years.

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