I have been President of the University of Southampton Atheist Society for the past year, and was Secretary for the year before that, whilst I’ve been studying for an MEng in Mechanical Engineering. Even as Secretary I was heavily involved with the running of the society. I helped organise our Reason Week for 2015 which included talks from two speakers and three other events, as well as events throughout the year, which included an Atheist Cocktail Night, Rant Nights, Film Nights and talks from four further speakers. My contributions in this regard increased throughout the year. As President I helped organise our Reason Week for 2016 which included an Ex-Muslim and Black Atheists Panel Discussion between four speakers, as well as three talks from further speakers and another event. I also helped organise with our Christian Union a debate between our societies which was attended by well over a hundred people. As well as our usual events, my year as President included a further three talks from speakers, as well as a film screening with Q&A presented by its creator and director. Some of you may remember me from the Regional Convention that Reading held back along or from the AGM last summer and I’m glad of the opportunity to get to know you all better over the course of this Training Day and EGM weekend. I am now currently in the handover process with my society’s next committee and aim to become involved with the AHS in any way possible so as to continue contributing to the success of societies and our movement.
Despite my society being, and being considered, a well-established one; my experience has been that receiving the reins of a society without prior personal experience is a very daunting and challenging position to be in. Whilst managing a society as part of a committee is a great learning experience it can also be a thoroughly draining and time-consuming one – needlessly so, in part. This makes it incredibly easy to let standards slip and to fail to meet prior expectations you had, even expectations set by what you were able to achieve at the beginning of the year. With low numbers of attendance at events and at AGMs, support for new committees is desired and sometimes essential if a society is to thrive, rather than merely continue its existence in the most minimal sense.
As Head of Membership, my role would be to coordinate with the New Societies and Societies Development Officers, as well as the President, to ensure new and existing societies receive not just the support they need to exist and continue existing, but the support that will help them thrive. There are different types of societies within the AHS and each society is different, but lessons can be learned and applied from all of them. My role, and that of the Officer’s I would be working with, would include taking a direct, personal approach with societies to allow us to learn the intimate details of their struggles and successes and tailor the support we give and lessons that we will helping to apply and identify. Such a direct, personal approach, which as a necessity will include visiting our individual societies, also builds relations between them and the AHS – if nothing else it shows the hard-working people who are the blood and gears of our movement that we care. It shows them that we care about what happens to them. That we care whether they succeed with their ambitions. And that we care about their involvement with us. The future of the AHS and our movement as a whole rests on our engendering impactful societies and impactful people, which will inevitably give rise to an impactful AHS, and this must be at the heart of the Head of Membership’s role – which I would endeavour to achieve.