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Presidential Election

posted Mar 27, 2012, 5:13 PM by SHIFTuofu .   [ updated Mar 27, 2012, 5:17 PM ]
That time of the year has come. It is time for SHIFT to elect a new president. The election will be this coming Sunday (April 1, 2012). In order to vote according to our constitution you must be a voting member. That means you must be a University student and have come to a total of five meetings (For more information on the topic please consult the Constitution tab). Our two candidates are Shaun Carlson and Adam Isom. Here are their statements:

Shaun Carlson:

When I started classes at the U after moving up from Provo, I was thrilled to finally find an atheistic student group to be a part of. I have greatly enjoyed participating in SHIFT over the last year getting to know you all and would like to have the opportunity to help further our group and its goals by serving as its president for the next year.
As president, I will continue the tradition of diversifying our meetings from the standard free discussion meetings. In addition to the successful film screenings and "field trips," I would like to experiment with themed discussions (analogous to our book discussions), lunch/coffee meetings, and any other ideas proposed by the group.

In addition to the Facebook group, I will work with our Webmaster to enhance our Internet presence by producing a regularly updated website to aid us in our recruitment and as a means to advertise our activities and accomplishments to the public. As part of this effort, I would like to revive the SHIFT blog and invite the many talented writers we have in our group to contribute to our godless voice in Utah.

I would like to see our group form closer ties with other atheist/secular groups in the area such as the Atheists of Utah, SHAFT, SHAAFT, etc. To facilitate this, I would organize one or two social events a semester to meet and mingle with other godless groups to make new friends and exchange ideas.

Finally, I will find ways to increase our service opportunities and their visibility. I am especially interested in coordinating with other secular organizations and the Utah Coalition of Reason to undertake larger projects than could be done as individual groups.
Adam Isom:

I’ve been an atheist since I was twelve. Growing up in a 97 percent LDS high school was difficult, as I met very few like-minded people. I’ve loved SHIFT ever since I joined a few months ago, and I would love the opportunity (and responsibility) of leading this group.

First I will mention why I think I would make a good president. Then I will discuss my platform. If you have any questions about anything, feel free to ask.

Since joining SHIFT a couple of months ago, I've jumped right in to do my part to ensure it remains strong. And managing another group has given me some experience that I could apply to SHIFT.

I was asked to take over as volunteer coordinator quite recently, and as such I have announced volunteering nights on Wednesday (tutoring recovering substance abusers). I’ve learned that SHIFTers are interested (by asking them in person), but that another avenue might be better (the day/time isn’t great). Given that, I emailed the Atheists of Utah about a week ago in order to coordinate volunteering efforts with them--I believe in piggy-backing on existing efforts to maximize what you can do. In addition, I will be assisting with the April event Bring an Atheist to Church fundraiser. For the upcoming PZ Myers event, I volunteered to scout the venue and set up equipment, as well as write and distribute a press release (written last Friday and emailed today to five papers). Whether or not I am not elected president, I will continue to contribute to the group.

Two months ago, I started a Meetup for members of a web community called Less Wrong (LessWrong.com – check it out). We’ve had five meetups so far, and I’d say it’s doing pretty well as we’ve already started two projects related to Less Wrong (feel free to ask) and have collectively prepared and given a few presentations. Communication has been key. This experience has taught me what it takes to manage a group, albeit one smaller than SHIFT. If you’re wondering, I see leadership as figuring out what the group wants to do, identifying what specifically needs to be done, delegating it, and ensuring it gets done when others don’t pull through for one reason or another.

What will I do if elected president? First I’ll discuss the strengths I think should be maintained, and then mention how I would do things differently.

I perceive current strengths to be speaking events and discussions. I am quite impressed by SHIFT's tradition of prominent speakers and speaking events ever since I heard about the people they've had, and will do my best to continue that tradition. Note that, as president, I would frequently communicate with the first three presidents to see how they did things in order to maintain continuity and figure out how to make things successful.

I very much enjoyed the Hitchens book discussion. It was very popular, so I would certainly continue that tradition. Those present may remember me as the (possibly annoying) guy who tried to ensure everyone had a turn to speak as well as attempting to cut off extended and hostile back-and-forths. At the next discussion meeting, I asked fellow SHIFTers what they thought about the last book discussion, where a moderator could have done better, and a few other ways that book discussions could be improved in general. **I believe it would be characteristic of my approach to constantly ask for other people's feedback and ideas and immediately incorporate them.**

As president, I would introduce themed discussions (in fact, I proposed it). By this I mean including a list of a few suggested topics (possibly with relevant links) in a meeting announcement on Facebook.

I would seriously consider resurrecting the Ask an Atheist event (which I found out about by trawling through old SHIFT documents), perhaps hosting it at Plazafest. I think this would be a great opportunity to demonstrate our normality ☺ and dissuage misconceptions.

I would coordinate with UCoR and its constituent groups and organize a meetup each semester with at least a couple other groups, as would Shaun Carlson. My idea was to coordinate volunteering efforts, but I like Shaun’s idea on mutual socials as well.

In addition to publicity associated with public events, I would aim to do some advertising. One fellow (Seth) mentioned the idea of pinning flyers to coffee shops in the city and someone else mentioned the idea of running a Facebook ad for one week to see what happens, both of which I would test.

I like Shaun Carlson’s idea of a SHIFT blog. Since that would require people to actually write posts, which I foresee as a difficulty, as an intermediate step I would consider embedding a Google Group for discussions into SHIFT’s Google Site, which I did for my LessWrong meetup. The advantage such would have over Facebook is twofold: (1) organization (there could be specific threads, e.g. for discussion on Mormonism and its history) and (2) posts aren’t buried as quickly (partly due to (1)). If, after discussing it with other officers, it seems like a good idea, one use of the Google Group discussions would be to test the idea of a blog. By seeing what several people have to contribute, ideas for blog posts could be tested without requiring as much commitment. This idea is more tentative than the ones outlined above it, which are solid.

In a related vein, as president I would encourage those who are more outspoken/passionate (the “firebrand”s) to write and continue writing op-eds/letters to the editor, and will do so myself if a good opportunity arises. Dr. Greg Clark, in a couple posts on the Facebook page, has changed my mind on this position and I believe any cause should have “firebrands”, although I would not tolerate attacks that become personal.

Finally, at my first officer’s meeting, I would lay out a specific agenda for the year and review it with the other officers once every 1-2 months, checking off items as they’re completed or justifying why something didn’t happen (maybe it wasn’t a good idea after all).
Also as a final reminder we are voting on our social activity this week which will happen at the same time as the election. http://www.doodle.com/unaafbezmi66ewci#table. We would also like to thank Amanda Duran for the time she spent as president and wish her luck in her endeavours these coming years.