About

The University of Toronto Secular Alliance is dedicated to building a community for those adhering to secular worldviews – humanists, transhumanists, atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and freethinkers of all denominations.

What binds us is the special emphasis we place on values, ethics and decision-making based on unrestricted rational discourse and human experience, and our desire to show that such ways of life are every bit as ethical, optimistic and satisfying as those based on religious faith.

We strive to promote science, reason, critical inquiry, and promote the reliance on evidence and freedom of inquiry in public affairs. We engage in activism to encourage the application of these methodologies in all levels of education, in media, and in governmental matters.

The UTSA is a chapter of the Freethought Association of Canada (FAC),the nation’s leading and fastest growing secular freethought organization. The UTSA and FAC are headquartered at the Centre for Inquiry Ontario, Canada’s premiere venue for humanists and freethinkers.

We hold meetings on a regular basis, and upcoming meetings and events can be found on this blog, or via our Facebook page.

Contact us at secular.alliance@utoronto.ca to be put on our mailing list!

You can also us a letter to the following address:

12 Hart House Circle
Toronto, Ontario
M5S 3H3
(647) 261.3784

Below you will find our Official Mandate & Constitution.

MANDATE

The purpose of the UTSA is to promote and lead education and discussion on all aspects of secular freethought worldviews and related topics, and to organize social and community activism.

1. Community: The UTSA will promote the various secular worldviews, including scientific naturalism, humanism, transhumanism, atheism, agnosticism, and skepticism, with special emphasis on values, ethics, and decision-making based on the here and now, human experience and rational evidence- and logic-driven analysis. Through community building, the group will demonstrate that such ways of life are ethical, optimistic, and satisfying.

2. Methodology: The UTSA will promote freethought, critical and scientific thinking, and the importance of evidence and freedom of inquiry as the methods of choice. To this end, the group will elucidate to the public the crucial differences between science and other methodologies.

3. Outreach: The UTSA will actively engage in social and political activism. The group will encourage and advocate the application of the above methodology in all levels of education and in media, and in community and governmental matters. The group will foster involvement from students and youth, but is open to members of all ages.

4. Cooperation: Recognizing that religious communities have a right to exist in a free society, we are committed to working with individuals and groups of any perspective who share a belief in a secular society, freedom of speech and inquiry, and rational humanistic public policy.

CONSTITUTION

University of Toronto Secular Alliance

1. Name
The organization will be known as the “University of Toronto Secular Alliance”. It may be referred to as the “University of Toronto Secular Alliance” or the “UTSA”.

2. Parent and Affiliate Organizations
The UTSA is a chapter of the Freethought Association of Canada (FAC). The FAC has the same mandate or purpose (See section 3, below) as the UTSA. The FAC overseas a growing number of chapters across Canada. The FAC, and thus UTSA and all other chapters, are affiliated with the Amherst, New York-based Center For Inquiry, which is an international non-profit organization whose primary objective is to encourage evidence-based inquiry into science, pseudoscience, medicine and health, religion, ethics, secularism and society.

3. Purpose
The purpose of the UTSA is to promote and lead education and discussion on all aspects of secular freethought worldviews and related topics, and to organize social and community activism.
3.1 Community: The UTSA will promote the various secular worldviews, including scientific naturalism, humanism, transhumanism, atheism, agnosticism, and skepticism, with special emphasis on values, ethics, and decision-making based on the here and now, human experience and rational evidence- and logic-driven analysis. Through community building, the group will demonstrate that such ways of life are ethical, optimistic, and satisfying.
3.2 Methodology: The UTSA will promote freethought, critical and scientific thinking, and the importance of evidence and freedom of inquiry as the methods of choice. To this end, the group will elucidate to the public the crucial differences between science and other methodologies.
3.3 Outreach: The UTSA will actively engage in social and political activism. The group will encourage and advocate the introduction of the above methodology in all levels of education and in media, and in community and governmental matters. The group will foster involvement from younger students and youth, but is open to members of all ages.

4. Membership
4.1. Member status: Any individual who registers their intention of joining the UTSA by completing a membership form will be granted member status. There is no membership registration fee. All members are granted voting privileges, but these do not extend to the Annual General Meeting (see 5.3). Membership in the UTSA confers each individual with inclusion in an electronic mailing list, to be maintained by the Secretary. This list shall not be publicized by any means or divulged to anyone outside the group.
4.2. Member agreement: Given the often controversial nature of the topics to be explored, appropriate etiquette shall be demanded during all meetings and in all communication related to the UTSA. Members must agree to show respect for each other and to refrain from expletives, insults and threatening or humiliating language. The Board may remove members from the UTSA who fail to comply with this agreement after repeated warnings. Standard practice will include an informal warning upon first infraction. A second infraction will be met with a formal warning, which includes notification that subsequent violations will result in suspension or expulsion from the group. A third infraction will result in suspension or expulsion from the group. The board reserves the right to invoke suspension or even expulsion on a first offense for more severe infractions (e.g., violence, defamation of religious symbols, icons, and texts). Defamation of religious symbols, icons, and texts will not be tolerated. Infractions of this kind will result in suspension and possibly expulsion.
4.3 An individual may withdraw their membership through written notice at any time.
4.4 In the event of a Board member desiring removal of a general member, the President or a Vice President shall investigate the situation and draw up a list of charges against the member in question. This list will be presented to him/her no later than 14 days prior to an Directors meeting. Failure to settle the situation will result in a vote for dismissal at the next Directors meeting, requiring a 2/3 majority to pass.

5. Meetings
5.1. Board Meetings
a. There will be no fewer than four Board meetings each year. Notice of the meeting will be given at least seven days in advance. Emergency meetings will be allowed, provided 24 hour notice is given to all Directors. b. Board meetings will be called by the President or a Vice President or by a petition signed by 3 members of the Board. c. Board meetings will be open to all members, unless explicitly decided by the Board to go in camera. Quorum will be established by the presence of a majority of Board members. d. Decisions will be made with support of a majority of present Directors. e. The Directors may choose to bring an issue to a referendum of the membership either at a general meeting or over the electronic listserv. Once brought to referenda, the decision is binding.
5.2. General Meetings:
a. There shall be no fewer than 1 general meeting each quarter. Notice of the meeting will be given at least 7 days in advance. General meetings may be called by the President, a Vice President, or through a petition signed by a majority of the Board or 10 members. b. General meetings are open to everyone. Quorum will be established by the presence of 6 members. c. Any member of the UTSA may contact the Chair to inform him/her that they wish to raise an issue at the next meeting. The Chair will communicate the agenda over the electronic group at least 1 day prior to the meeting. The Chair will be responsible for leading the meeting in an efficient, reasonable manner. d. Board decisions are made by a two third majority vote, unless otherwise specified. e. Absent members may proxy votes to members in attendance by filling out a proxy form. f. The Secretary will keep minutes at all meetings. Minutes of each meeting will be made available on the UTSA website and the electronic group within 3 days of the meeting. The Secretary shall also be responsible for logistics concerning meetings and events, including room bookings.
5.3. Annual General Meeting (AGM):
a. The AGM will take place during March. The AGM will be open to everyone. Quorum will be established by the presence of at least 8 registered members. b. Members must register their intent to attend the AGM between two weeks and three days before the meeting to be eligible to vote and run for Director positions. c. Proxies will not be allowed at the AGM as membership is free. d. Decisions shall be made by a majority of registered members and such decisions will be immediately binding. e. The Chair shall be responsible for leading the meeting in an efficient, reasonable manner. f. Activities must include a year-in-review presented by the President, a report by the Auditor, a year-end financial report presented by the Treasurer and adopted through the support of a majority of registered members, and Directors elections, to be governed by Article 6. g. The membership will appoint the Auditor to audit the UTSA’s financial records and prepare a report for the following year’s AGM. h. Activities may include constitutional amendments, which are binding immediately if passed by a majority of registered members. 5.4 Executive Committee meetings a. The Board may strike an executive committee and appoint committee members at any time. b. The Chair of the executive committee will announce the meeting at least seven days in advance. Emergency meetings will be allowed, provided 24 hour notice is given to all executive committee members. c. Quorum will be established by the presence of a majority of executive committee members. d. Decisions will be made with support of a majority of present executive committee members.

6. Directors
6.1. All Director positions are voluntary.
6.2. Description of Positions:
a. President: The President shall be responsible for the overall direction of the UTSA. The President shall ensure the Directors perform their duties and work together effectively, including active conflict resolution and guidance. The President shall be a signing officer of the organization for all purposes including the bank account. The President is the official representative of the organization at all occasions and pertaining to all issues, unless another member is elected by the Board to perform this role ad hoc.
b. Vice President – Program Coordinator: The VP Program Coordinator will take over all Presidential responsibilities at any meeting where the President in unable to attend. His/her main responsibility is to oversee all UTSA events, delegate responsibility as needed, ensure provision and quality of service to members, and continually report progress to the Board.
c. Treasurer: The Treasurer is the second signing officer in financial matters and holds the FAC’s bank account with the President. The Treasurer shall be responsible for providing financial updates and reports following major events and as requested by the Board. The treasurer shall perform a year-end annual report at the AGM. The Treasurer is answerable to the Board and must ensure distribution of funds complies with project and FAC budgets.
d. Secretary: The role of the Secretary is to retain the minutes of all meetings, establish and maintain the electronic mailing list and the separate discussion group, and keep copies of all communications publicly available online. The Secretary shall be responsible for all room bookings and logistics in arranging meetings. The Secretary will keep a membership list and will update the membership list and invite new members to the discussion group. The Secretary is responsible for responding to requests for membership information.
e. Promotions & Publicity Director: This individual shall oversee promotions and publicity of all events and initiatives.
f. Media Relations Director: This individual shall be the UTSA’s media contact. He/she shall have knowledge of relevant philosophy, policies and the views of the membership. He/she shall be responsible for creating and maintaining liaison with all levels of media. He/she shall be responsible for ensuring press releases are issued on relevant issues and shall bring any requests to the immediate attention of the Board.
g. Outreach Director: This individual shall be responsible for public relations, communication with external groups, and for actively seeking and coordinating intergroup initiatives. He/she shall ensure the Association is fulfilling its mandate with respect to events and projects that actively outreach with civil society, social and other institutions, communities and society at large. This individual is tasked with overseeing the building of freethought communities through intergroup initiatives such as knowledge sharing, networking, and combined action on humanitarian, social justice and environmental causes of interest to the membership.
6.3. Election Procedure:
a. The Directors will be elected at the Annual General Meeting for a one year period by those members registered for the AGM. All candidates must be registered for the AGM.
b. Candidates may be nominated by themselves or others.
c. Short speeches may be given by each candidate, followed by a short question and answer period. Elections shall be conducted by secret ballot, to be overseen by an impartial observer to be agreed upon by all candidates.
d. In the event of a candidate desiring re-election for an undisputed position, a vote of continued confidence will be conducted, overseen by an impartial observer agreed upon by all candidates, to determine if the individual shall remain in position.
e. The Directors will fill or appoint vacant positions as needed. The President will assume any remaining positions.
f. Transfer of power will take place immediately following the AGM.
g. Outgoing Board members shall be highly encouraged to attend the next 2 meetings.
h. Vacant positions between AGM’s can be appointed by majority vote of Directors
6.4. Removal from Office
a. Any Board member absent for two consecutive meetings will be deemed to have resigned, unless a satisfactory reason is communicated to the Directors at least 24 hours prior to each meeting.
b. A Director shall be subject to dismissal if following a warning from the Board, there is continued use of slander, profanity, or derogatory or discriminatory language in relation to other members or in the course of UTSA dialogue or discussion at any time.
c. A Director shall be subject to dismissal for continued incompetence or willful negligence of duty.
d. The President or a Vice President shall investigate cases of a), b) or c) above and draw up a list of charges against the Board member in question. This list will be presented to him/her no later than 14 days prior to a Board meeting. Failure to settle the situation will result in a vote for dismissal at the next Board meeting, requiring a 2/3 majority to pass.

7. Officers and Committee Members
7.1 The Board may appoint officers with specific powers or strike committees, including an executive committee, with a specific purpose and appoint committee members
7.2 The powers of all officers and committee members will be set by the Directors and subject to change at any time.
7.3 All officers and committee members are volunteers.
7.4 The Directors may close a committee or revoke officer powers at any time.

8. Finances
The President and Treasurer will be signing officers for the UTSA’s fiscal affairs and hold the UTSA’s bank account. The Treasurer will maintain a chronicle of all transactions. An Auditor will be appointed at the AGM to review the chronicles and prepare a report for the following year’s AGM. The treasurer will prepare a financial report, both written and oral, for the Annual General Meeting. The preliminary budget for the year shall be laid out by the May General Meeting, but shall be under review throughout the year.

9. Amendments
9.1 Amendments to the bylaws may be proposed at Directors or general meetings or through discussion on the UTSA’s electronic forum.
9.2 A written copy of an amendment must be presented by any Director.
9.3 Two-thirds of respondents must approve the changes for ratification within one week of notification.
9.4 The constitution may also be amended at the Annual General Meeting through support of a majority of registered members.

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