By Leslie Brefeld, 2014 Winter Intern
College campuses are an ideal place to start an animal rights group. Students are often open to new ideas, and those who get involved have a great way to creatively express their passions.
AR groups allow you to meet with other like-minded people, get experience as an activist, and inform — maybe even inspire — many others.
Even though the number and diversity of animal rights groups is growing, there are still many schools and colleges that don’t have an animal rights/vegan group. If you’ve ever thought about starting a group at your school but didn’t know where to start, we’re here to help! In this blog, we’ll be listing five tips for starting a group at your college or university. You’ll also get expert advice from current college students who have started, or are a part of, an animal rights group. Creating a vegan or animal rights group doesn’t have to be hard, but it will definitely be rewarding!
1. Register your group
If you want to be affiliated with your college and make use of their resources, such as rooms to meet in, faculty help, and greater exposure, sign up to be a school organization. Find out what is needed to get that accomplished through your school’s student affairs or student life office.
Expert Tip: Oxy VegHeads founder at Occidental College in California, Brandi Tebo, described this first step:
“So one of the first things I did when I got to college was found veg club. I started by going into the office of student life, sitting down with a coordinator, and asking what I needed to do to get it rolling! Then I filled out the necessary paperwork and started advertising! I made up these cute little flyers and posted them everywhere around campus, then spent a lot of time planning the first meeting and never looked back!”
2. Get together
Set up an informational meeting. Hold it in a public place — maybe in the student lounge or a veg-friendly campus food court — so that you don’t have to expose your house or dorm to people you haven’t gotten to know very well. During the meeting, find out what people’s interests are and what they would like to do through the group. Make sure to get everyone’s contact information, and if necessary, take up a small donation to cover any costs you incurred by hosting the meeting or to help cover costs for the next meeting. Take notes. You can help newcomers get up to speed by recapping the last meeting’s notes at the beginning of the next meeting. You may also want to think about designating roles so that everyone has a clear idea of what their part is.
Expert Tip: Kitty Jones of the Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy described her experience in a college group after having started a group in high school.
“I’m now one of the leaders of Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy (BOAA) and am trying to use what I learned from high school in managing this group. BOAA was founded in 1999 at UC Berkeley. BOAA also has no set hierarchy, however, there are definitely a few members that are particularly involved. I think that having member roles/hierarchy would make the group work more smoothly and efficiently though.”
3. Decide what you’re all about
Think of what excites you. Leafleting? Tabling? Making meals to share? Creating an animal rights film festival? Starting a vegan mentor program? You can also find inspiration by looking at other student-run vegan and animal rights groups’ websites to see how they are structured and what the various tones/styles of the groups are.
Resources: Check out “Plant Peace Daily” by Jim Corcoran and Rae Sikora. This book includes tons of ideas for activism that can be done alone or with a group. Other great resources include major vegan and animal rights organizations. Look to their websites for information, activist activities, funding, and general support. Some of the biggies are Vegan Outreach (for leaflets and tips), and of course VegFund, for resources and funding.
4. Meet with regularity
Make sure you to give your group a chance to succeed. If at first you don’t have a lot of people at your meetings, don’t be discouraged. Give it some time and think of new ways to bring people in.
Expert Tip: Oxy VegHeads founder at Occidental College in California, Brandi Tebo said:
“Whether this is a weekly dinner, bi-weekly movie-screening, etc., make sure that there are certain regular events in place that people enjoy coming to and they know they can rely on. This is the backbone of your organization.”
Once you are a solid group, don’t be afraid to get out there and network. Keep an eye out for how other groups and yours might have things in common or would just like to do something together. You may never have the opportunity to be around as many people willing and wanting to get together as you do in college.
Expert Tip: According to Alessandra Seiter, co-president of the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition at Vassar College in New York, working together with other groups is valuable.
“For every event we host, we reach out to other student organizations and academic departments who we think would be interested in co-sponsoring an event. For example, six other campus groups — including the Food Committee and French Club — co-sponsored our recent Vegan “Wyne” & Cheese Tasting because their missions related to our event. The most important piece of advice I can give is to network. Having a strong community of driven individuals is indispensable to making a large impact with activist work.”
Good luck and have fun!
Are you part of a campus AR/Vegan group? If so, we’d love to hear about your experience. Please leave a comment below.