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An Interview with Steven Shapiro — Previous Secretary, University of West Florida Secular Student Alliance — Part 2

2022-12-13

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2017/11/11

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What are the main areas of need regarding secularists on campus?

Steven Shapiro: You can never have enough people involved on campus for your organization. If there is any area that needs improvement, it is that. I don’t believe that SSA has reached out nearly enough of what it can. More people need to be informed, and more people need to take an active role to combat other strong organizations, such as BCM (Baptist Collegiate Ministry). There is a church right next to campus, so obviously more people are exposed to their advertising, as opposed to ours. Our main goal isn’t to eradicate faithful organizations, on the contrary, we would actually like to get along and be able to co-exist equally on campus. However, we need more people to understand our side and take an active role in that belief for it to work.

Jacobsen: What is your main concern for secularism on campus moving forward for the next few months, even years?

Shapiro: Obviously my main concern is that our organization won’t be as strong as it used to be. It does seem as if more and more people are reaching out to us, however you can never have enough support. Hopefully one day SSA will be one of the most strong, and present organizations on campus. My concern isn’t too heavy however, because there are more students standing up, speaking their mind and voicing their concerns. I am actually very proud of the progression that I have seen in just the last four years.

Jacobsen: What are the current biggest threats to secularism on campus?

Shapiro: The current biggest threats would have to be the radical people that show up to our campus. The man that I mentioned earlier, or those that show up week after week to spread their message. I don’t take issue with those that are spiritual, but it becomes a problem when you start forcing your belief down other people’s throats. Too often do those instances occur where people get yelled at “in the name of God”. Those are some major issues we currently face.

Jacobsen: What are perennial threats to secularism on campus?

Shapiro: Obviously some lasting threats would be the huge presence of Christianity on our campus. Being that we have two or more strong religious organizations on campus, two church’s in a five mile radius, and of course Pensacola Christian College ten minutes away, it certainly does an overbearing effect on people. Given that Pensacola is a big area in the “Bible belt”, religion is present wherever you go. I would like to see more balance in the area altogether. There needs to more people on each side, rather than a more lop-sided equation. These are the issues we have been facing for a very long time, and probably to continue to face in the years to come.

Jacobsen: What are the main social and political activist, and educational, initiatives on campus for secularists?

Shapiro: There is the Secular Student Alliance, several science related organizations, as well as the philosophy club, which was ran by our former president Janelle Gormley. We also support clubs that advocate for women’s rights, as well as members of the LGBTQ community. Our current president, Carla Rodriguez also took part in the women’s march in downtown Pensacola, as well as the March for Science in Washington D.C.

Jacobsen: What are the main events and topics of group discussions for the alliance on campus?

Shapiro: The main event that we put on this year was S3RC. As discussed earlier, it was an event where members of the secular community were asked to come to our campus and speak on such issues. We also hold weekly meetings, and frequently attend county board meetings to allow our voices to be heard. We also do fundraisers from time to time, such as a bake sale, selling merchandise, and an event where students got to throw water balloons at us (in the name of science of course). Topics of discussion can range from serious political matters, to more light hearted things such secularism in film. We often discussed several science related matters as well. Usually in the beginning of the year, we allow our new members to speak about themselves and how they became secular. Any topic could be up for discussion, so long as it pertains to secularism. Often times, we would also watch a documentary, or watch videos on YouTube pertaining to our topic and discuss what we watched.

Jacobsen: How can people become involved and maintain the secular student alliance ties on campus?

Shapiro: Students may get involved by simply showing up to our meetings! We hold weekly meetings, and based on the schedules of all the E-Board members it could be any day, at any time. However, it is always in the Commons in one of the conference rooms upstairs. As the semester draws closer, it will be easier to tell when meetings will be held. Also, students may find more information about the organization by finding us on campus where we are tabling! We also frequently use chalk to write on the sidewalks of campus to spread our message. Students should have no problem learning more about our organization.

Jacobsen: Any feelings or thoughts in conclusion?

Shapiro: I just want to say that I am truly honored to be a part of this organization, and am very proud to call myself a secular human being. I don’t wish for everyone to think the same way I do, as nothing could ever get accomplished. All joking aside, I would love for people to form their opinions on their own accord. People shouldn’t follow simply because they think it’s the right thing to do. They should believe what they want to believe. They should want to strive to be more inclusive with people of all faiths, or lack thereof. That is what this all about. We want to unite people together, despite our differences. We don’t want to shut out, we want to include people. It’s diversity and differences of opinion that makes humanity move forward. If we always think the same way all the time, nothing will progress. That’s all I have to say, hopefully it all makes sense.

Jacobsen: Thank you for your time, Steven.

Shapiro: You’re welcome, thank you for interviewing me. It was my pleasure to give you my thoughts on these issues.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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