Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why DAFT Deserves Most Improved Student Organization

Hey folks. There are less than twenty-four hours left to nominate DAFT for Most Improved Student Organization as part of Student Life's "Leadership and Involvement Celebration." Composing our nomination has realized what kind of strides DAFT has made this year and it makes me really proud to be president of this organization. I leave my nomination essay below for you all to read.

If you haven't already done so, please nominate us at http://tinyurl.com/dpuawards. It only takes a few minutes. DAFT is a rock star organization and we deserve the recognition. Thanks for being awesome!

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Atheists doing Interfaith service? Agnostics attending church? It happens at DePaul. Humanists like these are the core of the DePaul Alliance for Free Thought, DePaul’s official organization for atheists, agnostics, humanists, and skeptics. In one year, DAFT has become a recognizable presence and a rich contributor to the intellectual life of our university. Through our guest speakers, service, and collaborations we have demonstrated a dedication that makes DAFT the ideal candidate for Most Improved Student Organization.

DAFT continually faces one overwhelming challenge: at the nation’s largest Catholic university, how can we build cooperative relationships as atheists and agnostics? We begin with an integral Vincentian ideal: embracing the inherent dignity of every person. In our activities, we never belittle religion. Instead, we encourage dialogue through events like (F)a(i)theist: How One Atheist Learned to Stop Hating Religion, a presentation by Harvard Interfaith Fellow Chris Stedman. Stedman delivered his talk to a diverse group of religious and secular students about including the non-religious in interfaith dialogue, an objective we strongly support.

DAFT exists for three reasons: to provide community for non-religious students, to advocate skeptical inquiry, and to promote a positive image of atheism/agnosticism on our campus. DAFT has combated the isolation secular students feel at DePaul through regular meetings. Membership is open to all, regardless of religious identification. We have advocated skeptical inquiry by hosting Dan Barker, former minister and president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, to give a free lecture on his journey to over 100 students, faculty, and community members. Our membership includes DePaul’s brightest student leaders, including merit scholarship recipients, Dean’s List awardees, an RA, a Chicago Quarter mentor, a Dialoguing Demon, and a Transition Leader.

We contribute to DePaul through our commitment to collaboration. (F)a(i)theist was a joint effort with Interfaith. We co-sponsored a discussion on the afterlife with V&L House and DePaul A.V. Club. Our Send an Atheist to Church fundraiser, in addition to raising just under $100 for JumpStart, brought us to Hillel’s Shabbos service. We co-sponsored a vigil for the Japan earthquake victims with Feminist Front and sent a representative on the Interfaith retreat. We have also extended a friendly hand through PB&J with the SSA by giving away free sandwiches to students.

As a group, we have evolved from the DePaul Secular Student Alliance, founded in Winter 2009 with no budget and a meeting attendance of less than ten people, to a group with 81 registered members, two additional e-board positions, a bank account, and frequent grants from the SAF-B fund. Our blog receives 300 hits a month and we will be responsible for bringing in three distinguished guest speakers this year. We are consulted regularly by the DePaulia and have had papers written about us by local high schoolers.

We owe a big thanks to DePaul and Student Life for the support they have given us. We look forward to continued growth, proving to the world that it is possible to be an atheist and still love attending DePaul University.

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