I’m personally of the belief that the success of the secular student movement as a whole can very much be judged by the success of the movement on the ground. Because of this, I tend to keep my eyes open as to the well-being of other groups and keep track of the progress of new ones.
As of recently, there’s been an increased amount of activity in the area that I personally consider the “last frontier” for nontheism in the US: Mississippi. In the past, there have been attempts to get groups started at both the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University, but both projects appear to have fizzled out or stagnated (a real shame). However, there’s been some serious interest presented at The University of Southern Mississippi down in Hattiesburg. They have a determined core or leaders already (cheers to you guys), and have already stirred the pot and driven up a fair amount of interest on campus. As of right now, the only leap left between them and official legitimacy is the University: once that hurdle is passed, they will be the first SSA affiliate in the state, and will be cleared to start hosting official events as a university group to increase membership. That hurdle, however, could be a tough one.
In the south, getting a secular studeent group started has met with mixed reactions by academic institutions. The most obvious example to give is the legal marathon that it took to get Auburn High’s group officially recognized. Still, we managed to win out in the end (thanks to a ton of hard work and determination on the part of the Hendersons and the SSA). Thus, the question seems not to be “if” the USM group will be recognized, but “when”. As long as the potential stagnation doesn’t kill the interest in the group, then everything should play out just fine (though it could be aggravatingly tedious). In the best possible situation, the USM group won’t run into any problems at all. Considering the fact that there are no other student groups in the state, however, I imagine there will be some initial opposition (hopefully not from within the administration). I’m going to be optimistic, though, and give Southern Miss the benefit of the doubt: if they do a little research, they’ll know they can’t win that fight. And on top of that, I can guarantee that this group of secular trailblazers isn’t about to be thwarted. If the university does cause them trouble, SECAA and the SSA already have the student’s backs. This is all going to come down to the beginning of the upcoming semester, when the Secular Student Alliance at Southern Miss will find out if they will become an official student group at the University. I’m hoping those wardrums I hear in the distance are just in my head.
In all honesty, I’m hoping for the best; but rightfully prepared for the worst. At this point, the lines are drawn and the die is cast. We’ll see how this all turns out soon enough.
Here’s to the Heathens of Hattiesburg!