Mike Ivanov is the President of the University of Toronto Secular Alliance founded by Justin Trottier several years ago. Here we talk about the history of the U of T SA, or UTSA, activities of the organization, and the upcoming “Is there a meaning to life” event at Convocation Hall on January 26th.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How did the University of Toronto Secular Student Alliance come to life? Who started the organization, and why?
Mike Ivanov: The University of Toronto Secular alliance came to life due to the efforts of Justin Trottier around 10 years ago. He wanted to create a community for secular students where they wouldn’t feel ostracized for their beliefs or lack thereof.
Jacobsen: For those that do not know about secular student alliance but with an interest in founding one on their own campus, how can they do so? Who should they contact? If one already exists on their campus, how can they bring themselves and others into that fold, that community of the formal non-religious of all denominations?
Ivanov: If students want to open their own secular alliance, they can contact their student union about getting their club recognized, and then they’re set! Usually, the multi-faith centre on campus will be aware of any secular association and help you get involved. That’s definitely the case with our multi-faith centre which offered to host our club.
Jacobsen: What is your own personal history with the secular community? How did you find it and become involved with it?
Ivanov: I came to the club 3 years ago and enjoyed going to the meetings. The following year I was voted in as president which I’ve been for the last 2 years. I got involved because of their great advertisement during clubs day which I highly recommend all freshmen and even other students to attend.
Jacobsen: Any exciting and interesting activities that are ongoing for the membership? How do you keep a membership enthused? I know this can become a difficulty for organizations.
Ivanov: Every week, we pick a new and usually controversial topic to analyze and discuss, letting our membership have a say in what that topic will be. We do movie nights, debates and discussion panels with guests of all religions to keep our members interested.
Jacobsen: What are your new and upcoming events that you will either host or will be involved in that people should keep an eye out for online, on campus, or off-campus but hosted by the UTSA?
Ivanov: We will have our movie night sometime in February and will be involved with the “Is there a meaning to Life” event in Convocation Hall on the 26th which should be exciting.
Jacobsen: Any final thoughts or feelings in conclusion?
Ivanov: What we really try to do at the secular alliance is to promote discussion that you wouldn’t usually have at University lectures which are listening-based or tutorials which nowadays try to avoid controversial content. This is a safe space to discuss any opinion, however politically incorrect.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Mike.
Ivanov: Thanks for your time Scott.
Image Credit: Mike Ivanov.