Religious Campuses panel – SSA 2012 annual conference

I was invited to be one of the four panelists for the ‘Religious Campuses’ panel at the Secular Student Alliance’s 2012 annual conference. I spoke about my experience as an atheist at King’s College (the Catholic university I attended for undergraduate studies) and Marywood University (the Catholic university I am currently attending as a graduate student).

In addition to the expected informative nature of this unique panel discussion, many laughs were had by the audience. One of the funniest moments of the panel discussion, at least on my behalf, might have been my recounting an interesting experience [around the 28-minute mark] in which I — a vegetarian — objected to the ‘hostage situation’ concerning King’s College dining services facilities locking meat products in coolers during Lent (forbidding employees from preparing and serving meat products apparently was not enough).

This panel was an interesting opportunity for me to speak about something quite different than what I usually address; instead of writing and/or talking about philosophy, church/state issues and activism, and the other ‘usual stuff,’ I spoke of my experience as an atheist on religious campuses and my attempts to start SSA groups. There isn’t too much on this blog about my efforts to start an SSA group at King’s College (I should have better documented this) and there are few posts relating to my efforts at Marywood University.

Here’s the Youtube description of the panel/video:

SSA Board President [Evan Clark] moderates this panel on the challenges posed to SSA affiliated student groups at religious college campuses. Justin Vacula of Marywood University, Branden King, Harrison Hopkins of Presbyterian College, and Andrew Tripp of DePaul University offer up their own stories and some advice to other students in similar situations.

Questions from moderator and audience (paraphrased)
(4:18) Why did you attend a religious university?
(6:15) What inspired you to start a Secular Student Alliance group?
(8:55) How did you start to form an SSA group? How did your school react?
(16:25) Who have been your biggest allies concerning the formation of your SSA groups?
(22:17) Once your groups were accepted or denied, what was the reaction?
(30:40) What advice do you have for students who want to start SSA groups?
(34:28) How do you find atheistic students to help you form groups?
(36:40) What were the responses of other student groups on campuses?
(40:52) What portion of what you do is currently focused on education and de-conversion? Ideally, what portion of efforts do you think should be focused on education and de-conversion?

Justin Vacula

Justin Vacula hosts the Stoic Philosophy Podcast; serves as co-organizer and spokesperson for the Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) Freethought Society; and has hosted monthly Stoic Philosophy discussion groups for the Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia.

He has appeared on and hosted various radio shows and podcasts; participated in formal debates and discussions; was a guest speaker for college-level courses; was featured in local, national, and international news; and has been invited to speak at various national, local, and statewide events.

Vacula received bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology, a minor in Professional Writing, and the distinguished W.A. Kilburn Memorial Award for Philosophy from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He is currently living in the Scranton, PA area attending Marywood University’s graduate-level Mental Health Counseling program and has worked with the Arc of Luzerne County’s Transition to Community Employment program as a teacher’s assistant and job coach alongside adult learners with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

He also plays poker; volunteers as a member of the website and media team for the Greyhawk Reborn Dungeons & Dragons campaign while playing at events in the Eastern United States; and enjoys metal music.