“I have very fond memories of my time running the University of Toronto campus club. Looking back, I definitely gained all the benefits that one would associate with that type of activity. The discussions and debates supplemented my education in the classroom, and helped me hone my understanding of philosophy and my general thinking skills. The camaraderie of sharing a common cause inspired me and resulted in some lifelong friendships. The campus activism crystalized the important realization that, yes, I could impact my world for the good. Looking back though, I realize that there were also other, non-obvious benefits that are only evident to me now. I developed a lot of business skills, from project management to working collaboratively with people whose personalities I didn't necessarily like. I learned practical lessons about marketing, running meetings, planning events, delegating tasks. And I saw, in practice, that big dreams and goals are achieved through a focus on small details. I can't think of better training I could have had for my career. If you're someone who enjoys acting to make real a vision you believe in, and want that for your future work, you should see a campus club as a wonderful, rewarding opportunity to learn how to do it!”
—Ray Girn, University of Toronto Objectivist Club, 1999-2004
Deciding to Start a Campus Club
Starting a student club has the potential to become an enjoyable, life-serving value during your time in school. In addition to learning about Ayn Rand’s philosophy, being a club leader has other unique benefits: valuable experience in a leadership role, the right to manage the club’s schedule and activities in a way that will serve your goals, and a sense of pride that comes from creating and shaping a new value in your life.
Although the prospect of starting a club may seem overwhelming, especially if you’ve never run a club before or are unsure how many students on your campus are interested in Ayn Rand’s ideas, many students have found ways to circumvent these challenges with creative ideas and have quickly built successful clubs.
New to Objectivism
Students who are new to Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism have been very successful starting and leading campus clubs, and for good reason. They focus on developing the most important traits the leader of a new club can have: a desire to learn more about Objectivism, and an interest in discussing its ideas with other like-minded students.
You are not expected to be an expert on understanding and communicating Objectivism to others in order to start a club, nor should you be relied upon to be the only student presenting and discussing her ideas at club meetings. Every student who is a part of the club should be there primarily to learn and discuss Objectivism with other students, not to teach it.
Starting a campus club should be a value to every student who chooses to do so. You are in charge of running your campus club—not ARI, the school, or anyone else—so you will decide how much time you can invest in it. The more people you get involved in running the club, the less time it will take you.
The purpose of clubs is to study Objectivism. If you are comfortable planning and moderating group discussions, then weekly club meetings will be easy for you to execute.
An often overlooked source of support is that provided by other club members. They too have a selfish reason for participating in the club, so learning to rely on other club members will benefit everyone. Overall, getting other members invested in running the club will both save you time and help your club to succeed long-term.
Interest level on campus
The majority of clubs are started by just one student with no other initial members. Of those independent students who attempt to start a club, many are able to find other students on campus who are interested in participating in the club.
Indeed, there are plenty of different ways to find students that are already familiar with Objectivism, as well as attracting those who are new to Ayn Rand. For a brief list of tips, see Advertising the Club below.
Obtaining School Recognition
While clubs can exist informally at schools, those that are recognized by their school’s administration are always more successful at introducing more students to Ayn Rand's ideas. Official recognition typically allows your club to advertise on campus, acquire funds to spend on the club and its activities, gain access to valuable booths and tables at club fairs, gain the right to use school facilities for meetings, post a listing on the school’s club Web page and to invite professional Objectivist intellectuals to talk to your club and the campus at large.
While every school has a unique list of requirements, there are a few that are typical at most schools. The most common is a club constitution or statement of purpose. You are free to create your own or use our sample club constitution and/or statement of purpose.
Acquiring a faculty adviser is another common requirement. Finding a faculty adviser is seldom a problem, though, because it is largely a formality. In fact, the faculty adviser does not even need to be an Objectivist. The signature merely indicates that the club’s purpose, the study of Objectivism, is a legitimate one in compliance with school rules governing campus clubs.
Finally, the signature of a few students is often asked for. Obtaining these signatures serves a similar purpose to that of acquiring a faculty adviser: they simply represent that the club should exist. Those students who sign are not required to be Objectivists or join the club. Check with your school’s campus club web page for specific requirements.
Advertising the Club
An effective advertising campaign is a key component in starting a successful club and finding new members. An effective advertising strategy will help keep your club dynamic with fresh faces and ideas, ensure its longevity and promote Objectivism on campus. Here are a few ideas that have worked well for other clubs.
Blanketing the campus with a few dozen posters about the club is a terrific way to introduce your club to other students. It allows for a high degree of visibility and creativity, and is very cost effective. The more frequent and up to date the posters, the greater impact they will have in bringing in students. You can advertise the club throughout the year this way as well as putting up posters specifically for upcoming meetings.
Participating in your school’s campus club activity fair is an excellent way to talk to students interested in participating in campus clubs on school. Current club members should be able to provide curious students with specific information about the club, communicate ideas and answer questions about Objectivism. The Ayn Rand Institute will also provide you with free materials for your club to showcase and distribute to other students.
Another way to publicize your club on campus is through the channels your school provides its clubs. Common examples include getting to e-mail the school listserv about upcoming meetings and events, and getting your club publicized in official school publications like their website and newspaper. Check with your school’s administration for more school-specific ideas.
Promoting your club through the Internet is a great way to get started. Most successful campus clubs maintain a presence on prominent social networking sites, and have even created a website or blog to increase their visibility. This will provide your club with an important presence for students who search for clubs to join via the Internet.
Introducing your club to other campus clubs that might have an interest that overlaps with yours can be a great networking move. Not only will it provide clubs with new opportunities to reach students who have a definite interest in getting involved in clubs at school, but it can lead to cohosting panel discussions and debates with multiple participants. Many students are members of multiple clubs on campus because they have multiple interests and enjoy learning and discussing these interests with others, so contacting other clubs should be viewed as a benevolent act that can benefit everyone.
Support from ARI
ARI is always excited and encouraged to learn about students who recognize the value of starting a campus Objectivist club. ARI has helped hundreds of clubs over the years, so we can pass on to you the type of invaluable experience former successful club leaders have shared with us.
Hosting speaking events
There is no better way to gain members and spread Objectivism on your campus than to host a speaking event, and ARI is always eager to assist new clubs who would like to undertake the challenge. For clubs interested in hosting a speaking event, ARI can provide your club with funding assistance, offer you the resources you need to be successful and help facilitate contact with many professional Objectivist intellectuals who are available to speak on topics related to Ayn Rand’s ideas.
ARI has free videos, audio lectures and literature to offer to students who decide to start a campus Objectivist club. These make great resources to help organize meetings around and to offer to other students who are curious about Ayn Rand and your club.
Finding other members
ARI will help you connect with other students from your school who have already expressed interest in participating in an Objectivist campus club. Hundreds of students contact ARI every year looking for clubs at schools. In addition, your club’s information will be listed on ARI’s Find Nearby Clubs web page to help interested students at your school find your club.
To learn more about this opportunity, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 949-222-6550 ext. 218.