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Secular Student Alliance Best New Affiliate Award Winner: BASS

Leslie A. Zukor is a junior at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. She is majoring in Linguistics with a concentration in Classics. The founder of the Reed Secular Alliance, Zukor has been instrumental in bringing such noted speakers as Daniel Dennett, Chris Mooney, and David Halperin to her campus. Aside from freethought activism, her twin passions are Houston Astros baseball and squirrel photography.

BASS award Congrats to the Bruin Alliance of Skeptics and Secularists (BASS), this year's winners of the Best New Affiliate award. Each year the Secular Student Alliance presents its four annual Best Awards, for groups that excel in a particular area. This year the SSA gave out its Best Media Award to the University of Florida's Atheist, Agnostic, and Freethinking Student Association, its Best Website to the Campus Atheists and Secular Humanists at the U. of Minnesota, and its Best Service Project Award to the U. of Kentucky's Society for Humanistic, Intellectual and Free Thought. The aforementioned clubs will be featured in upcoming editions of the SSA eMpirical.

Roy NatianLed by enthusiastic BASS co-founder Roy Natian, this year's winner of the Best New Affiliate Award has been on a roll. The UCLA group has hosted freethought superstars such as Dan Barker to talk about the historicity of Jesus, and atheist author Sam Harris to debate Chris Hedges on the existence of god. Drawing a crowd of nearly 40 at a new club's first event is quite a feat, but BASS far surpassed the Barker showing with the Harris event. Harris, who penned The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation, argued passionately before a crowd of 1,200 that moral values are not contingent upon religion. Hedges, a former New York Times Middle East Bureau Chief, "wouldn't stick to the subject," according to Natian. Furthermore, he indicted all atheists for the religious views of Pol Pot and Stalin. "Everyone in BASS thought that Harris won," Natian observed.
In addition to hosting speakers, BASS displays tremendous success in recruitment. The club has twenty regular attendees, with a Facebook.com group that is 80 members strong. These are really impressive numbers for a freshman group; many freethought clubs don't garner this much interest until they have several years' experience. When asked about the club's membership successes, BASS's executive board pointed to its friendly atmosphere. "There's really a feeling of camaraderie at our meetings," explains junior Secretary Susan Harris. "What I most enjoy about the club is that we have a common starting ground for [our] conversations…. It's really nice to be able to come together and have a pizza or whatever and for a little while feel not so alone."
It is this sense of community, collaboration with other groups to host events, and enthusiasm that makes the Bruin Alliance of Skeptics and Secularists a great choice for the SSA's Best New Affiliate Award.
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