dondigitalia

Starting an Objectivist Club

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I think I'm going to try starting an Objectivist Club @ SFSU. It's been tried an failed a few times in the past by other people, but I don't know how much effort they really put into it, so I'm going to try again.

Right now, I'm in the process of trying to locate others who may be interested. I've gone to www.facebook.com (which is basically like MySpace for college students) and searched my school for anyone who listed Ayn Rand, Objectivism, or any of her books in their profile, then sent each of them a message. I may catch some flack from you guys for this, but I did the same with anyone who listed their political orientation as Libertarian, with a message explaining that Ayn Rand gave the first consistent, integrated moral defense of capitalism.

What other things could I do to locate students who may be interested in any aspect of the club. It's not necessary that the students be Objectivist, or even really know anything about the philosophy. I'm just looking for individuals who might be interested in learning more about it (which is why I messaged the Libertarians).

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Don,

I've had personal experience with an "Objectivist Club". Please take this as a first-hand account.

Don't call it an Objectivist club. If you are going to allow Libertarians, TOCers, Right-Wingers, etc. in, call it something else. You can still talk about Ayn Rand, and can still promote your agenda. But an Objectivist Club has the name Objectivism in it. Not only is it a strike at your values to include non-Objectivist, but it degrades the name of Objectivism to those possibly interested.

What is your primary reason for wanting to start a club? What keeps you so motivated?

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What other things could I do to locate students who may be interested in any aspect of the club. It's not necessary that the students be Objectivist, or even really know anything about the philosophy. I'm just looking for individuals who might be interested in learning more about it (which is why I messaged the Libertarians).
You might be interested in the essay "How to Attract and Retain Serious Students of Objectivism" by Alex Epstein.

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If you want to start an ARI-supported club, then I would recommend instituting a club charter along the lines of THE FORUM's guidelines. You, of course, aren't dealing with an electronic forum but many of the same principles apply.

The Ayn Rand Institute has a load of information about how to start a club here.

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I've read what ARI has to say about the club. They have a lot of good suggestions (they also have a ready-made mission statement and constitution), but I'm trying to see if there are any others people could think of as well. I'll definitely read Epstein's essay when I have time today.

JRoberts: Why do you think it demeans Objectivism to call it an Objectivist Club? I think that it is the proper name, since the primary purpose of such a club is to promote is to study and promote Objectivism. In fact, the ARI says that it is their preferred name for such a club, and at the same time says that you shouldn't restrict membership to just Objectivists, as long as you make it clear in your mission statement that the purpose of the club is promotion of Objectivism, not some other agenda.

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Dondigitalia, speaking as someone that formed an Objectivist club at TTU then had it crumble and collapse due to the integrity of its members, I would exercise caution in calling it simply an "Objectivist Club"; by doing so, you are an ambassador of Oism to that particular school and hold a great responsibility to not blemish its name. I would recommend something like "_____(society, group, club, forum, etc.) of Students of Objectivism".

Also, and I say this with honesty and prior experience, not cynicism: be prepared to have to kick individuals out of the club to preserve its integrity, even if they are your closest of friends.

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Also, and I say this with honesty and prior experience, not cynicism: be prepared to have to kick individuals out of the club to preserve its integrity, even if they are your closest of friends.

Thanks for the advice. I'm well prepared to give people the axe; I just moved out here, so I barely know anybody. All of my close friends are 3000 miles away. :)

Right now, I'm still in the process of trying to figure out if there's enough interest for a club to even be worthwhile. It's a little premature to even think about a name, and it's something I'll need to discuss with the other people who step up to the plate and take on some responsibility (if there are any).

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You could try contacting enthusiasts of capitalism also.

Best of regards! :)

~Aurelia

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You could try contacting enthusiasts of capitalism also.

Best of regards!  :)

~Aurelia

You know, the capitalism angle is the reason I contacted Libertarians. I think a lot of college-age "Libertarians" associate themselves with the party because they believe in capitalism, but either don't know of any other options out their or don't recognize the philosophical bankrupcy of libertarianism. It never occured to me to search for students who mention capitalism in their profiles. Thanks for he suggestion, Aurelia.

I've actually gotten more response than I had expected, and this is just from facebook alone! In just one day, I got 10 responses from people who have read or heard of Ayn Rand and are interested in learning more.

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[...] an Objectivist Club? I think that it is the proper name, since the primary purpose of such a club is to promote is to study and promote Objectivism. In fact, the ARI says that it is their preferred name for such a club, and at the same time says that you shouldn't restrict membership to just Objectivists, as long as you make it clear in your mission statement that the purpose of the club is promotion of Objectivism, not some other agenda.

For more than 10 years I have been coordinating a network of Objectivists, mostly in the Portland, Oregon area but with contacts in the Seattle area: http://www.aristotleadventure.com/spon/. Our purposes are: (1) the pleasure of socializing with like-minded people (which means we must be very strict about excluding individuals who are not like-minded); and (2) studying Objectivism. In the last few years, the first purpose has dominated. Most people who want more than philosophy for Rearden will study on their own.

Our Seattle-Portland network (not a club) began more than 10 years ago. Our standards have been very high. In 10 years we have collected about 20 people (living in areas from Vancouver BC to San Francisco, but mostly around Portland and Seattle). Think about that -- an average of about two people per year. Quality takes time, a lot of time.

My experience does not apply to university student organizations. However, I do have several questions and comments that might help.

1. Be sure you meet your university's requirements for on-campus organizations. There might be a Student Affairs or other office that has a list of rules and regulations, if any. For example, some universities prohibit organizations that "discriminate" against individuals because of their beliefs. That could cause serious problems.

2. Organizations usually have more than one purpose. One might be public and another might be in the background. Defining both, at least for yourself, is important. For example, is the main purpose of the club to promote Objectivism? If so, then I do not see how you can accept as members anyone who is not Objectivist. In other words, how can a non-Objectivist promote Objectivism?

On the other hand, if the primary purpose of the organization is to study Objectivism, then anyone (who follows written rules of etiquette) would be eligible. You would, of course, need to offer a systematic course of study or discussion.

(Of course, purposes need not be either-or. For example, you could study Objectivism as a means to promoting Objectivism.)

3. I am still not clear about what your purpose is. Is it only to spread ("promote") Objectivism? Perhaps you have more than one? For example, a legitimate purpose is to simply meet people you can relax with, at least in terms of explicit philosophy. Are there other purposes you would like to fulfill?

4. Be wary of volunteer burnout: One or two people end up doing all the work, burn out and quit, and then the organization collapses. Much better is to decide ahead of time how much effort you are willing to put into the project, never do anymore, and then, if no one else volunteers, serenely accept the fact that only some of your ambitions will be achieved. This approach requires writing a prioritized list of goals. Start at the top, and do as many as you can while achieving all your other goals in life (like being a straight-A student and entering the career you want). If you achieve only the first three of a list of 12, then so be it.

5. Be wary of a version of Gresham's law as applied to philosophical organizations: Allowing bad people into an organization will drive away the good people and they won't come back. So standards and expectations must be very high from the beginning, and the emphasis should be always on retaining the good, not on being "fair."

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JRoberts: Why do you think it demeans Objectivism to call it an Objectivist Club? I think that it is the proper name, since the primary purpose of such a club is to promote is to study and promote Objectivism. In fact, the ARI says that it is their preferred name for such a club, and at the same time says that you shouldn't restrict membership to just Objectivists, as long as you make it clear in your mission statement that the purpose of the club is promotion of Objectivism, not some other agenda.

I don't think that it demeans Objectivism, in and of itself. But when you start adding other people as members to a club entitled "Objectivism", those members become a reflection of the club. It is my belief that a name should reflect the members and the purpose. The purpose of The Objectivist Center is to promote Objectivism, but I would bet that nobody here appreciates the word "Objectivism" in application to that group.

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By the way,

I couldn't find you on Facebook. What name do you go by?

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By the way,

I couldn't find you on Facebook.  What name do you go by?

I use my real name, Dave Zornek, except I misspelled my last name when I first typed it in, so I'm Dave Zornk. It takes them forever to fix it.

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1. Be sure you meet your university's requirements for on-campus organizations. There might be a Student Affairs or other office that has a list of rules and regulations, if any. For example, some universities prohibit organizations that "discriminate" against individuals because of their beliefs. That could cause serious problems.

We do meet them. The only requirements at my university are a minimum of five members and a faculty advisor, who doesn't really ever do anything except sign the paperwork.

2. Organizations usually have more than one purpose. One might be public and another might be in the background. Defining both, at least for yourself, is important. For example, is the main purpose of the club to promote Objectivism? If so, then I do not see how you can accept as members anyone who is not Objectivist. In other words, how can a non-Objectivist promote Objectivism?

The purpose of the club itself is to study Objectivism and provide a social network for admirers of Ayn Rand. My purpose, on the other hand, is to promote Objectivism; it's just as you said: studying as a means of promoting. ARI lends out study materials to campus clubs free of charge, and has advice on their site about how to plan meetings and lead discussions.

The confirmed members I have right now have varying levels of knowledge about Objectivism. Two of us are very well read, while one member has only read The Fountainhead and doesn't know much about philosophy at all.

4. Be wary of volunteer burnout: One or two people end up doing all the work, burn out and quit, and then the organization collapses.

This is a concern, and you are absolutely right.

5. Be wary of a version of Gresham's law as applied to philosophical organizations: Allowing bad people into an organization will drive away the good people and they won't come back. So standards and expectations must be very high from the beginning, and the emphasis should be always on retaining the good, not on being "fair."

I think that goes for everything in life, not just a campus organization.

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Oops, I forgot to thank you, Burgess, for taking the time to share your experience and asking the questions that I need to answer to make this work.

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By the way,

I couldn't find you on Facebook.  What name do you go by?

Here's a link: http://sfsu.facebook.com/profile.php?id=11705763

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I've never run an Objectivist club or group (campus-based or not) but I have participated in a few over the years.

My goals in participating in such a group are:

1) To learn more about Objectivism.

2) To see how other people have applied Objectivism to their lives - in other words, to see concrete examples of the philosophy. This is inspiring, and also educational, in that the examples might suggest solutions to my own problems.

3) To meet new friends.

4) To get ideas about new values to pursue. (For instance, I might learn about a book - that I otherwise would not have heard of - at a meeting, and decide to read it.) The advantage here is that through friends, I can have exposure to many more potential values.

I'll second what Burgess said about "Gresham's Law" problems - bad members definitely drive out the good, so I think it's important to have high standards and stay with them. If I'm going to participate in an Objectivist group, I'd like one in which the members really are Objectivists, or at least value the work of Ayn Rand. And I'd like the other members to be valuers (as opposed to whiners or petty nihilists or cynics).

If I were starting such a group, I most definitely would not try to include libertarians. My experience with these people (in person, and on-line) is that they typically do not value or even understand Objectivism. I'm not interested in somebody who wants to talk about his proposed modifications to Objectivism, or who has an ax to grind about something like anarchism. In other words, I don't think libertarians make particularly good potential Objectivists. However, it's true that some people who are interested in Ayn Rand may get involved with libertarianism before they understand what it's all about - such people might make good Objectivists in the future, once they've learned more about Objectivism and rejected libertarianism.

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I would generally agree with what Jay had to say.

I have been meeting with an Objectivist to discuss Objecitvism for just over 3 years now. It is just the two of us although we have tried adding a person or two on an occasion. The people, so far, have not worked out because they were "not really" that interested in it. I would also put emphasis on high standards, as you will get nothing from someone with low standards.

When the two of us meet we usually discuss one of the lectures that we have listened to. We each buy lectures then we exchange the ones that the other bought and listen to those, then discuss them. By doing this we both benefit on the insight of the other, I find this very productive. Some times our discussions get very heated. This does not bother either of us, as we both benefit from correcting mistakes.

One can receive a lot of benefit from a study group of three or more, a group of two or by oneself. I had read and listened to books and lectures by myself for over four years before I meet anyone.

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