Student Organizing Manual

Do you get tired of watching the news, hearing politicians planning more assaults on the Bill of Rights? Are you fed up with the civil liberties violations on your campus? The American Civil Liberties Union is the preeminent national organization dedicated to defending individual rights. In this manual, you'll find out more about the ACLU and how you can form your own ACLU campus group. To ensure the best communication possible between your group and the ACLU, as well as access to additional resources, please submit the Get Involved Campus Form.

Introducing the ACLU

National Campus Program Organization 101
  • Establishing the Group
  • Contact the Student Government
  • Tell Me Something... Good!
  • Working With Your Local ACLU Affiliate
  • Choosing A Faculty Advisor
  • Funding
  • Membership
  • How To Facilitate A Meeting
  • Leadership
  • Group Structure: Coalitions
  • Building A Campaign
    Activities Planning Events ACLU Issues Appendices
    Appendix A: State Affiliate Contact List
    Appendix B: Sample Constitutions
    Appendix C: Resource Sheets
    Appendix D: ACLU Action Network Registration

    Introducing the ACLU

    Headquartered in New York City, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has a legislative office in Washington, DC and affiliate and chapter offices in all 50 states. We defend the rights and freedoms that make this country unique and great. Here in the United States, "liberty" means that each of us has certain inalienable rights that neither the government nor majority rule can take away. It is the ACLU's goal to ensure these rights - our civil liberties - for each of us, and for the generations to come.

    Ever wondered what would happen if you had to represent yourself in court?
    If you were not allowed to use birth control? In the 1960’s, the ACLU helped bring about major advances in individual rights. Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) established poor people’s right to legal counsel. Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) struck down a Connecticut law forbidding the use of contraceptives.

    There is no doubt that most people have heard of the ACLU, yet many may have misconceptions about what we do and why. Sadly, that can sometimes hinder your campus group from meeting its goals and objectives. Here are three short and sweet arguments you can use to introduce the ACLU's mission and activities.

    Three things to know about the ACLU

      1. We're all-American.
        Our job is to conserve America's original civic values - those found in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In fact, the ACLU is in many ways our nation's most conservative organization. By protecting these original values, we defend the rights of every man, woman and child in this country. We have hundreds of thousands of members and supporters nationwide, from all walks of life, who help us carry out our mission everyday.
      2. We're not anti-anything.
        We only fight attempts by the government to take away or limit individual freedoms, like your right to practice the religion you want (or none at all), or to decide in private whether or not to have children, or to speak out for or against anything you wish. Our philosophy is that no matter who you are, you should be treated with equality and fairness.
      3. We're there for you.
        Rich or poor, straight or gay, black or white or brown, urban or rural, pious or atheist, American-born or foreign-born, able-bodied or living with a disability, every person in this country has the same basic rights. For 80 years, we have been working diligently to ensure that no one takes those rights away.

    The ACLU is Active on Three Main Fronts

    Ever worried about organized school prayer?
    The ACLU helped bring about a major victory for religious liberty in West Virginia v. Barnette (1941) when the Court ruled the state could not force Jehovah's Witness children to salute the American Flag.

    Do you value equal opportunity and diversity in education?
    The ACLU helped deliver one of the centruy's pivotal civil rights victories, Brown v. Board of Education (1954), in which the Supreme Court declared racially segretaed schools unconstiutional and overturned decades of unfair, racist educational policies.

    In The Courts

    The ACLU is well known for its many historic victories protecting individual rights from the smallest local courts to the Supreme Court. Today, ACLU staff and volunteer lawyers are involved in countless cases nationwide, ranging from religious liberty to freedom of speech, from racial justice to gender equity, and from due process of law to workplace privacy.

    While we cannot take on every individual case we hear about - and we get thousands of calls and letters a month - we do try to represent people or groups whose civil liberties issues can set precedents that will help other people across the country.

    Only the U.S. Department of Justice appears before the Supreme Court more often than we do.

    In The Capitol

    Lawmakers increasingly seek to sacrifice our rights in the so-called wars - on drugs, and on crime - and in the name of what they call "traditional" values. Since the ACLU believes the authentic American values are the ones reflected in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, our advocacy and legislative work is crucial.

    Our lobbyists research and track bills, create model legislation, speak out in the media, meet with lawmakers and testify before Congress and state legislatures to defeat bills that harm individual rights and to help pass laws that secure the civil liberties of all Americans.

    In The Streets

    In our information age, public education and grassroots communication are key. We work with the media and organize in the community to keep Americans informed of the many important civil liberties battles we continue to fight today and to enable them to make their voices heard by decision-makers.

    Join the ACLU!

    One of the easiest things you can do to further all of these efforts is to become a member of the ACLU. For the ACLU to continue its work in the 21st century, it requires a new generation of ACLU supporters to carry on this vital work. A standard ACLU membership is only $20 a year. ACLU membership entitles you to newsletters and other materials from both the national office and from your state ACLU affiliate office. Click here to become a card-carrying member of the ACLU.

    National Campus Program

    And counting . ..
    At present, there are more than 100 ACLU campus groups across the country at the high school, undergraduate and graduate levels. These represent thousands of young people like yourself who are passionately and actively fighting to preserve our precious civil liberties. Welcome to the club!

    The overall goal of the ACLU National Campus Program is to involve students nationwide in the civil liberties legislative battles in Washington. The Campus Program was established to maximize student energy, enthusiasm and effort through national, campus-focused civil liberties campaigns, elevating student activism to a level of powerful, national impact.

    This Student Organizing Manual will give you a basic understanding of the ACLU and some specific actions you can take on your campus to help the ACLU make a difference on the federal legislative issues that effect the lives of all Americans. The program's purpose is to form a cohesive network of resources, communication and information sharing that allows each ACLU campus groups to maintain their individuality, while at the same time assist you in elevating local activity to national activism.

    Through our web site, periodic newsletters and the many other ACLU resources, the ACLU Campus Program strives to give you the tools to make a difference. One primary resource for students nationwide is the Student Section of the ACLU web site at In this section, you'll find an on-line version of our campus manual as well as ACLU AMPLIFIED: The ACLU Campus Newsletter. The newsletter will include updates on civil liberties issues of particular importance to college students, and ideas on activities that have proven to be successful in promoting civil liberties on other campuses. We hope that the revamped Student Section will prove to be a lively and informative home on the web for students concerned about preserving and expanding their rights and liberties.

    More generally, the ACLU's online Freedom Network allows us to reach thousands of supporters and information seekers daily. Campus groups will find the ACLU web site a particularly useful link to the national office and other campus groups. The web site includes a complete and comprehensive list of ACLU's major issues and positions on those issues. We provide everything from background information to in-depth policy analyses, from court decisions to action faxes you can customize and send to your congressional representatives. You will find our web site to be an excellent resource in your endeavors, no matter what form they take.

    Furthermore, we also urge each member of your campus group to join The ACLU Action Network The Action Network connects your membership via periodic email updates to a community of concerned activists who protect our civil liberties through email, fax and on-line campaigns. The network is more than 40,000 strong - and growing every day.


    Have you ever wondered what you would do if you were raped and found you were pregnant? Recognizing a woman's constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy, Roe v. Wade erased all existing criminal abortion laws. Its companion case, Doe v. Bolton, which was brought by the ACLU, established that it is the attending physician who determines - after considering all factors relevant to a woman's well-being - whether an abortion is "necessary."

    Since most college students are of voting age, one of the best ways for you to protect your rights is through the ACLU National Campus Program. You can demand that your voices be heard in Washington by writing, calling and meeting with your members of Congress. As an ACLU campus group you benefit from the experience and resources of the national ACLU, state affiliates, and other campus groups as you work to protect the civil liberties of not only America's youth, but all Americans.

    Many issues currently being considered in Congress can directly effect you!

    • Efforts to restrict women's abilities to exercise their reproductive rights.

    • Bills to expand the rights of minorities, lesbians and gays, and people with disabilities.

    • Attempts to secure protections in the areas of financial, medical and genetic privacy.

    • Legislation to expand harsh and ineffective criminal justice laws.

    • Assaults on the religious liberties of Americans, through government endorsement of particular religious beliefs.

    By registering as an ACLU campus group, you and your organization are stating your commitment to civil liberties. You also take on a great deal of responsibility. Nationally, the ACLU has come to represent a tireless commitment as the nation's guardian of liberty - your every action should reflect that. Since our founding in 1920, the ACLU has grown from a roomful of activists to an organization of nearly 300,000 members and supporters - your every action is a part of that legacy. Proper and consistent communication with your state affiliate is definitely the largest part of that commitment as they are your most ready resource to help relay and explain the ACLU's positions from issue to issue.

    Ever written a controversial paper?
    The ACLU fought to enforce free speech rights at the state level in Gitlow v. New York (1925).

    Ever participated in a protest march?
    The ACLU helped strike down government restrictions denying the right to gather in public forums such as streets and parks in Hague v. CIO (1939).

    In addition to fighting for the broad issues mentioned above, you may want to focus your attention on civil liberties violations occurring at your institution. Do the following situations apply to your campus?

    • Are campus policies applied unfairly to minority students?

    • Does your school violate your privacy rights with winter break room inspections?

    • Do you have to refrain from speaking your mind because of speech codes?

    • Does your school keep your academic and medical records strictly confidential?

    • Does your school administer drug/alcohol tests without "reasonable suspicion?"

    • Does your school give you due process when threatening you with disciplinary action?

    One of the best ways to keep your campus group motivated and excited about civil liberties is through education. Stay abreast of the issues you choose to take on through ACLU publications, newspapers and the Student Section of the ACLU web site. It also a good idea to check out publications and web sites produced by organizations with opposing views. These materials can offer challenging perspectives that will not only help members of your organization make stronger arguments but may also excite and inspire your group to action.

    Also, your organization's very involvement in these issues will make a difference. Nothing you try to accomplish is too trivial. Every person that comes in contact with your ACLU group will have the chance to listen to you and to learn from you about these important issues, which is in itself a success. Your group may not be able to move mountains, but you are capable of changing minds, of influencing and educating individuals, all of which will ultimately help protect our civil liberties.

    We hope this manual will give you a basic understanding of the ACLU and some general thoughts about actions you can take on your campus and in your community to make a difference. Ultimately though, it is up to you and your campus group to build coalitions, look for help when you need it, focus on the things that work and learn from the things that do not.

    You will be most successful if you concentrate your efforts on specific, concrete actions that lead to real results. Knowing the facts, being able to counter your opponents' arguments, and devoting yourself to the issues you care about most will help ensure your ACLU campus group's success.

    Organization 101

    Establishing the Group

    On-line Registration
    The ACLU web site allows for quick and easy acccess to the ACLU affiliate network as well as the CLU campus network. On our web site we have provided an on-line registration form to help make the process of registering as an offical ACLU campus group as painless as possible.
    Click here.

    There is no one way to start a campus group, but following are some suggestions to get you on your way.

    To charter a new campus group, the first task is to surround yourself with like-minded people who are concerned with the same issues that you are and are dedicated to making a change. While both your local ACLU affiliate office and the National Campus Organizer can serve as valuable resources as you work to charter your new group, it is this group of peers that will be central to your overall success - as well as helping you keep your sanity. Once you have found a group of like-minded people to share in the initial work, you and your task force are ready to set up your own ACLU campus group

    Contact the Student Government

    Elements of a Constitution
    The following are basic elements to keep in mind when writing your Constitution:

    • Mission Statement
    • Membership Dues
    • Officers and Elections
    • Voting
    • Meetings
    • Committees
    • Finances
    • How to amend the Constitution

    The next order of business is to officially register your new ACLU group with the student government association (SGA) at your institution. Your SGA office should inform you of the administrative rules and processes. While there will be specific forms and procedures that vary widely from campus to campus, you should definitely be prepared to provide a short list of signatures of registered students, as well as a group constitution. (We have posted several sample campus group constitutions in the Students Section of the ACLU web site.)

    Though this may seem tedious, registering as an official campus organization can be critical to your group's success. You will find that your campus group may be entitled to a wealth of campus resources such as:

    • Meeting/office space in the student union.

    • An organizational email account.

    • Organizational mailing address.

    • Access to faxes, computers and phones.

    • Last, but certainly not least, possible funding.

    Tell Me Something ... Good!

    Before filing any forms with your institution, contact your ACLU state affiliate office and the ACLU National Campus Organizer (see Appendix A: State Affiliate Contact List or visit the ACLU web site). In this way, you can take advantage of the ACLU national organization and avoid reinventing the wheel. This allows us to be as helpful as possible, offering assistance and counseling to help guide you through this initial process. Also it helps us better track where student groups are forming and how fast we are growing as an organization. From time to time, the state affiliate or national office may also contact your group for assistance on a legislative campaign or to notify you if a speaker from our national office is coming to your area.

    Working With Your Local ACLU Affiliate

    Why Here?
    Private v. Public Institutions

    While public schools are bound to the Constitution through their relationship to the state, private campuses are free to do just about anything they like. Nonetheless, you can urge school officials, that as part of their duty to prepare you to live and function in the "real world," they are obligated to practice the rules that govern society.

    Virtually every state has an ACLU office that works on local legal and legislative issues and on public education. As mentioned above, it is very important that you immediately contact the ACLU affiliate in your state as it is important that they know of your organization. Likewise, some state affiliates have established specific requirements for official recognition of ACLU campus groups, so you must meet the requirements if you want to register as an official ACLU campus group.

    Each state affiliate serves as your local link to the ACLU and can be your biggest resource. While the level of relationship between a given group and its affiliate may vary with regard to need, proximity and resources, campus groups can partner with their respective affiliate offices in several different ways. Some ideas include:

    You should also check in with your affiliate staff to find out about their specific issue priorities and strategies. It may be that they need you to change the timing or message of a given event to achieve a broader goal for the institution. And yes, while some minor disagreement may arise where perspectives on an issue or proper course of action may diverge, remember that an open dialogue is key to a good relationship, and that we are all on the same team!

    Choosing A Faculty Advisor

    Certain institutions require student groups to have a faculty advisor as a precondition for official recognition and access to student fee funds. Your student government should inform you of that in the group registration packet. Even if your school does not have such a requirement, having a faculty advisor is a good idea. For one thing, involving one or more faculty members in an ACLU campus group can help insure continuity and stability. After your current leaders have graduated, an advisor can help ensure that the organization stays on track, and acquires new leaders.

    A faculty advisor can also be very helpful in providing guidance to students and sharing information about administrative processes, school policies, and hiring and admission issues.

    If you cannot find a faculty advisor of your own, call your local ACLU affiliate for help.
    There may be ACLU leaders on your faculty.


    For the More Ambitious
    There are, of course, other traditional fundraising activities, like selling T-shirts, posters or buttons. Coordinate them with the local ACLU affiliate, as that office may have merchandise you can sell. (You can also check the ACLU’s national web site for merchandise opportunities.)

    Once you have gained the recognition of your institution, it is time to apply for funding. Every institution has a different source, whether it is the student government or the Dean of Students' Office, so find the necessary information right away. The sooner you apply for student activity funds, the greater the chances that your group will get the requested amount.

    Do not limit your scope to the main student government source. Reach out to other organizations like a political science student association or women's rights organization that may be willing to financially sponsor a particular activity. For civil rights issues, do not ignore campus departments like the Office of Minority Student Affairs. Also, your school's cultural events board may be willing to pay for an ACLU leader to speak on your campus.

    Do your homework on businesses in your area that may be willing to help you. Many large companies set aside funds to help social justice issues and activities.

    The Best Things on Campus Are Free - or At Least Cheap!
    The issue of funding often stands in the way of the biggest ambitions. Yet it need not be so. Raising funds for any organization requires a great amount of time and human resources, something that may be hard to gather at a campus full of busy students. Keep in mind that there are a vast number of events that can be conducted with very limited funding - or without any funding at all.

    We don’t do that for money
    Remember, the ACLU is strictly non-partisan and does not endorse candidates. Likewise, be mindful that any funding must not limit the freedom of expression of, nor impose specific political interests on, your group. Also, pay attention to particular campus policies since some schools restrict the use of funds for political activities.

    The following are some of the numerous possibilities. Use them as inspiration:

    • Community members (city, state and federal officials, not-for-profit leaders, business owners) are often willing to speak for free.

    • Letter or postcard writing campaigns require, - at most - only a few dimes per letter.

    • If members of your group have laptop computers, hook up to the ACLU's web site at and have passersby send FREE FAXES to their members of Congress. (For added impact, ask people to send faxes using their home addresses.)

    • Setting up a table to educate students on issues is a fantastic and relatively cheap activity.

    • Show a video on social issues. You may be able to borrow tapes from a local ACLU affiliate.

    • Publicize issues through a telephone tree, an email list, or a posting on the Internet.

    • Organize a civil liberties "teach in" on your campus

    Use all the resources that your campus offers, such as space for events, advertising in the paper or in other common areas, faculty speakers and technical support. Pass the Collection Plate! Can we Charge our Members Dues?
    Every school has different rules about the collection and use of money by campus groups. Know the rules. You may want to consider charging dues of a few dollars to allow your group to print and copy flyers for posting and to have small events. Keep in mind though, college students are notoriously short of money.

    If you are allowed and do decide to charge dues, it is best to keep the money in an organizational bank account. Frequently, area banks offer free bank accounts to campus groups that are registered with the university. Pursue this angle as it may be very useful. Ask local banks if they do this, and if they don't, ask if they would consider doing it. If you strike out with the banks, your school may have a suggestion.


    Is Bigger Better?
    When establishing a campus group, it is important to remember the blessings of quality over quantity. Having a large membership is a great goal, but a handful of dedicated and active members is often more effective than 50 or 60 inactive ones. Regardless of numbers on the group roster, you need a core of a few active members on which you know you can rely. Be careful though. There is a point when even the best organizer becomes task saturated - no one person can do it all. So remember, as a student organizer, you need to divide, delegate and deliver.

    Who wants to be involved in the civil liberties activities? Who shares your passion and has a desire to be active? Who is willing to take charge of particular issues and activities? These are the questions that need to be answered as you begin to build your membership and set realistic goals for your organization.

    "How do we reach the public?" and, more importantly, "How do we activate them?" The first - and probably the most underrated tool of recruitment - is the least labor intensive: you need only ask. You will be pleasantly surprised how many people want to be active in an organization, or devote invaluable time, energy and/or money to a worthwhile cause. But how do you make your passion, their passion?

    The key is the ability to appeal to their self-interests: You will find that people will do the right thing for greatly varying reasons. Each will have their own personal motivation to become involved with an issue or an organization.

    Who wants to be “down”?
    The support of community members and faculty (Sociology/Political Science professors) will also help you achieve your goals. Take advantage of opportunities to invite their involvement as speakers or simply ask for their two cents. This can go far to increase your credibility in the eyes of your school as well as your local elected officials.

    Some major motivators can include:

    • A personal relationship with you or another member. Be it a family member, significant other, roommate or friend, many will join a group or volunteer time simply on the strength of their personal investment in who you are.

    • Moral or personal commitment to an issue. People may commit to an organization or issue campaign based on their personal ethos and values systems; these can be based largely on a sense of religious, ethical or ideological responsibility. More often than not, they may actually become involved out of a perceived need to defend these values.

    • Some students may join your group because they are directly affected by the issues the ACLU works on. A gay student might want to pass legislation preventing workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation; a Latino or black student may want to help prevent racial profiling in traffic stops; another student may have come from a high school that encouraged the teaching of creationism in science classes.

    • Opportunities to influence other people. Some are motivated by the excitement that comes with being part of an organization, especially one like an ACLU campus group, that has the potential to effect change or play a major role in the decision-making process within their immediate community.

    • Personal gain. Quite often, you will find that many consider furthering their career interests to be equally motivating. The opportunity to enhance a skill set, strengthen a resume, explore career options or develop job leads and contacts can be what lead students to membership with your organization.

    • The social outlet of group membership. "The friends you make at the ACLU are the friends you keep your whole life!"

    • Someone simply took the time to ask them. Everyone wants to be needed and needs to be wanted.

    Your ACLU campus group should regularly involve itself in activities that raise its public visibility, and at the same time give people an opportunity to join. At any publicly advertised event, people will come to support the issue, but also to check out your organization. Here, sign-in sheets and follow-up recruitment calls are definitely the business of the day. Other activities like letter-writing campaigns can also bring lots of people into contact with your organization. See the "Publicity, Publicity, Publicity" section for other ideas.

    Often, colleges and universities have a campus fair for organizations during orientation week.
    These are great recruitment opportunities, so be sure to meet the deadline for reserving space.

    How to Facilitate A Meeting

    The success of your group's programs, activities and campaigns is, in large part, a direct function of the success of your meetings. Meetings are where you plan and motivate, discuss and decide. How well your meetings run can influence every aspect of your organization, from sustaining membership to accomplishing goals.

    The most important thing to remember about facilitating a good meeting is that they don't run themselves. There are several necessary components to organizing an effective meeting.

    Location. Your institution will usually provide free space to hold meetings (see Organizing 101: Contact the Student Government). If not, you can often find free meeting space in neighborhood libraries or community centers. You can even meet in a favorite restaurant, coffee shop or community hang-out.

    Time. Next, decide on a convenient date and time for your meeting. Establish a recurring meeting (monthly, bi-weekly) so members can incorporate your group meeting time into their schedules. Also, start your meetings on time! It establishes the proper business atmosphere. It is equally important to end your meetings on time as well. It is a good idea to have a dedicated timekeeper at each meeting, usually the meeting facilitator.

    Meeting Basics
    Agenda. An agenda should be prepared and agreed upon before each meeting. A good agenda will help you run your meeting, insuring that all items are discussed and decided in an orderly and timely fashion. Be sure to include meeting place, starting and ending time and meeting objectives and items to be discussed. You should also try to distribute a draft agenda to your membership before the meeting (via email, fax, etc.) This allows your members to prepare information or develop questions to better participate, or even suggest additional agenda topics.

    Meeting minutes. The information that comes out of your meeting is supremely important, after all that's why you're there. Therefore, be sure to accurately record the decisions and action items that come out of your meetings. Though this may be the same person at every meeting, you should not start a meeting before choosing a meeting recorder.

    The recorder should not attempt to transcribe the entire meeting, but simply outline major discussion and any group decisions. He or she should also record any action items that are decided upon, who is responsible for carrying them out and any concrete timetables as well as progress on outstanding items. The recorder may also want to use a flip chart or white/chalk board to display everyone's contribution to the meeting. Meetings minutes are also an effective way to keep group members tuned in when they may miss a meeting. They are also a great way to keep regular communication with your state affiliate office, updating them on progress or even possible snags where they may be able to help.

    Don’t sweat the small
    stuff . . .

    Remember, time will often be a factor in some of the decisions that you make as your group becomes involved in the Campus Program’s national civil liberties campaigns, so try not to lose yourself in minute details. The color of the font on the flyer will not make or break the success of a program, so concentrate on the big picture and the ultimate goal and then turn your energy toward activism.

    Discussion Meetings run more smoothly when there is a defined and agreed upon set of discussion guidelines by which the meetings will run. These usually center on the basic rules of courtesy:

    • One person has the floor at a time.
    • Do not interrupt.
    • Refrain from personal attacks.
    • Everyone's input is valuable.
    • New ideas are welcome.

    These are fairly straight forward, but in the heat of discussion it may be up to the meeting's facilitator to insure that these guidelines are adhered to, and that meetings are run in an atmosphere of friendship and camaraderie where every member's input is respected and welcomed.

    Decision making A concrete and agreed upon decision making process is necessary for any group to operate successfully. Many groups may want to include their voting/consensus process in their group constitution. There are two main methods that your group may choose to employ for decision making, voting or the consensus process.

    Voting. Larger groups may find the voting process to be more suitable, while smaller groups are more comfortable with a more informal consensus process. With voting, you may find that requiring a two-thirds majority may promote more group cohesion as it reduces the number of people who may view themselves as having lost a vote. Also, some groups may want to link the privilege of voting to meeting attendance or participation.

    Consensus Process. Alternately, the consensus process seeks to establish mutual agreement on an issue by addressing all concerns. It can take longer than other processes, but it promotes group cooperation, creativity and will usually produce a greater feeling of commitment and individual buy-in to final decisions.

    Consensus though, does not always produce nor require unanimity. Your group may, and should, empower committees or individuals to make final decisions. Your membership must trust in the group and be sure that all legitimate concerns will be addressed and considered in all final decisions.

    For formal guidelines you can consult Robert's Rules of Order, but as you develop your rules, keep in mind that for them to be effective, they must be easily understood by your membership.


    Passing the torch
    One campus group was successful at passing the torch by incorporating a de-facto by-law into their constitution. While its elections were open to any member seeking office, it was understood that anyone seeking election should not be entering his or her senior year. This allowed for a more effective transfer of power, with the exiting officer available to the group as a ready reference.

    Building for the future is essential for any group working for social change in the long-term. With student groups and their natural built-in turnover, planning for the future becomes extremely important. Too often campus groups are built and sustained by a small group of people who eventually graduate, leaving only memories of a once-effective organization.

    Once you have recruited members, efforts must be made to retain and develop these people to ensure the future of the organization. Always have activities for members to participate in, take the time to explain the importance of that work to the larger structure, and recognize work well done. Identify those with leadership potential and put them in positions that will enable them to grow. Finally, remember that everyone must be replaced at some point in a campus group. It is your responsibility as a leader to ensure that when you leave, someone will be able to step into your shoes and continue to move the organization forward. This means taking time to train others, talking with them about the future of the organization and how to achieve those goals.

    Also, we recommend that campus group leaders keep a file of contact names, including a list of helpful professors, administrators and community leaders to pass on to the next set of leaders.

    Group Structure: Coalitions

    Don’t leave angry, just leave . . .
    When committing to become a part of a coalition be sure that you fully understand and agree with everything the coalition represents. Moreover, do not be afraid to disassociate your group from a coalition if you feel the coalition’s focus or intent parts with that of the ACLU. Remember that as a representative group of the ACLU, you must ensure that neither its name nor positions are ever misrepresented. This challenge intensifies when partnering in a coalition.

    The most obvious way to form an ACLU group is to recruit people who are interested in fighting for civil liberties. If your institution already has organizations working on the same issues as the ACLU, it may be hard for a new group to generate good membership. In this case another option is a coalition model. This requires building alliances around specific issues with other student or community groups, remembering that you don't have to agree with your coalition partners on everything - just on the immediate issue that has drawn you together.

    For example, you could form a coalition to preserve Affirmative Action programs. First, ask yourself who would your natural allies. An ACLU campus group could coordinate an alliance among campus groups such as the Black Students' Union, Association of Hispanic Students, women's groups and other interested organizations. The members of this coalition could come to consensus on a plan of action, and with the combined memberships of these organizations, the turnout and results should be phenomenal.

    Before you start working on a coalition model, check around your campus for any other existing progressive groups. Talk to some members and activists, and find out what issues they are working on. See what has and has not worked for their groups.

    Building A Campaign

    Long Term
    Many groups come together around a certain issue only to find that their energy fizzles when it is resolved. To become a strong organization that will last well beyond your time on campus, your ACLU group should have a statement of what you ultimately hope to accomplish. This statement can become your group's Mission, and should be the foundation upon which every campaign, position, program or event is built. As an ACLU group, your mission must be directly in line with that of the national ACLU, which is to serve as "our nation's guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States."

    Sample Mission Statement

    The purpose of the ACLU campus group on the University of Kansas (herein, the student group) shall be to maintain and advance civil liberties, including the freedom of association, assembly, press, privacy, petition, religion, and speech, and the rights to franchise, to due process of law, and to equal protection of law, for all persons in affiliation of the University, through all legitimate and appropriate means.

    The student group shall also strive to promote dialogue on civil liberties issues on the University of Kansas campus and in Lawrence. The group's objectives shall be sought wholly without political partisanship.


    Mission v. Message
    During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Huey P. Newton shared a common mission: equality and civil justice for blacks in America. Their divergence was not one of mission, but of message. They tailored their messages to a Southern Baptist, thirty-something audience, and a youthful urban audience. King spoke to his audience’s faith, and Newton to his audience’s defiance. Transpose the two and the message would have likely fallen on deaf ears.

    Problems, especially those affecting your civil liberties, will arise regularly in many different ways. The way you structure a campaign will determine your ability to effectively resolve a problem.

    These are the goals to be accomplished by the immediate campaign(s). Your intermediate goal should help define how your group decides to address a problem. For example, your Member of Congress may face a vote on a bill that would restrict students' freedom of speech. Your intermediate goal would be to persuade the Member to oppose the bill.

    When deciding which campaigns to do, you must first ensure that you remain consistent with the overall ACLU mission. Beyond that, as you decide how to address an issue, your group should develop an agreed upon criteria on which to base your decisions. While few issues will fit all the criteria, the most effective issue campaigns will be ones that fit most of the criteria set forth by the group.

    The following four questions should be helpful as a basis from which to work:

    Short Term
    Short-term goals (also known as tactics) are the programs, events and activities that you organize to carry out your campaign on your campus and in your community. In other words, short-term goals are your method of communicating to your fellow students and surrounding campus community and of putting pressure on targeted decision-makers. The next section on activities describes several tactics that you can use to further your campaign.

    Now, as you go out to fight for cause and your group accomplishes a goal, no matter how small it may seem, be sure to thank everyone who worked on the event/campaign and celebrate your progress. People are drawn to groups that accomplish concrete goals!



    Say what?
    When tabling you may only have a few seconds to deliver your message, so you may want to develop a campaign rap that is concise and to the point. Be sure to relay three points: your issue, your desired outcome and most importantly, what passers-by can do to help you reach your goal. You may ask them to write a letter to their member of Congress, attend a debate or come to your next meeting. Just remember the most important part of your rap is the “ask.”

    There are lots of great ways to get the word out about your issue or campaign. Remember, the overall goal for any activity is to facilitate action! Whenever considering different activities, be sure to take into account your constituency as well as the resources your organization has available for any given campaign. Also, your actions should build on one another through the course of a campaign. Following are just a few ideas that have proven to work.

    Simply set up a table in a high-traffic area of campus and distribute your campaign literature and get people to take action (e.g., write a letter to an elected official). You will only have a short period of time to deliver your message, so let them know exactly what is going on and why they should take action. Though the basic goal in tabling is educational, it is not an end unto itself and should lead to some further action. Be sure to always have a sign-up sheet for those who will undoubtedly want to get involved. Eye-catching visuals are great attention-getters.

    Letter Writing

    Petitions can prove to be mildly effective, but as the community gets larger they may be less and less worthwhile. If 50 people on your floor sign a petition to invoke quiet hours during finals week, it can have great effect on your dorm director, as he/she may be close and familiar with the names on the petition. Five hundred anonymous names on a petition that lands on the desk of a congressional aide may have little effect.


    A letter writing campaign is a great way to put pressure on all levels of decision-makers, from the campus administration to the U.S. Congress in Washington. These kinds of actions are useful in showing the strength of support or opposition to an issue, but you need to keep three important tips in mind when communicating with any decision-makers.

    • Keep it brief. Letters should never be longer than a page. Busy officials - particularly congressional aides - read countless letters a day on many issues, so you should keep your letter to the three most important points.
    • Personalize your letter. Let the decision-maker - especially if you are writing to your member of Congress - know that the legislation or issue matters in their community or state.
    • Personalize your relationship. The closer the decision-maker feels to you, the more your argument is likely to prevail. Note your relationship: constituent, donor, campaign worker, etc.

    While letter writing campaigns are definitely effective, they can be even more useful when used in combination with other actions to show strength. Consider these points:

    • Do you have a speaker coming who will address the issue? Set up a table for writing letters at the entrance to the room, and harness the energy the speaker has generated into action.
    • Do members of your group have laptops? Make it fast and easy for people to send letters to Congress by connecting the laptop to the ACLU's web site. Then all students need to do is fill in their name and address and click a button to send a letter.

    The National ACLU office has information on voting records of elected federal officials. Use those guides (visit as well as the Action Alerts from our web site to coordinate an energetic and productive campaign. (Some state affiliates also have this information for state legislators and issues.)

    See Appendix C: Resource Sheets for a sample letter to Congress

    Letters to the Editor are great advocacy tools. After you write letters to your decision-maker, sending letters to the editor can achieve other advocacy goals because they:

    When writing letters to the editor, be direct. Many newspapers have strict limits on the length of letters that they consider for publication (often 200 words or less). Call your campus paper and your community paper to find out their requirements. It is a good idea to pull your letter together directly from the your main talking points. Also be sure to include your contact information (name, address, etc.).

    See Appendix C: Resource Sheets for more information on letters to the editor

    Lobbying is a lot easier than most people think, and is effective at every level of government, from university administrators to city council members and U.S. Senators. Even your federal elected officials, who spend most of their time in Washington, keep at least one local office in their congressional district with permanent staff with whom constituents are welcome to meet.

    Don't be overwhelmed by the prospect of a lobby visit, it is merely a meeting for you to tell your elected representative what you think about a certain issue or bill. When considering scheduling a lobby visit, we suggest contacting your state affiliate office. With the state and federal legislative work that they do, they will most likely have contacts and information about the specific ACLU positions on various issues or bills that concern you.

    The following are guidelines for planning your lobby visit:

    See Appendix C: Resource Sheets for a more information on lobbying your elected officials

    A good speaker can impart important information, convey enthusiasm, and build a strong sense of community. The speaker need not be a celebrity who commands an extravagant honorarium. A popular law professor who participated in the civil rights movement, a local author whose work has been censored, the executive director, legal director or legislative director of a local ACLU affiliate, members of Congress, or other elected officials can all fit the bill. You will also find that the ACLU national offices in New York and Washington may be able to provide speakers who are experts on various civil liberties issues. To request help in finding speakers, write to

    Several aspects of advance work lend to a successful speaker event. Some of the most important include:

    This is a good way to maximize student input on controversial campus rules or practices and to encourage students to exercise their rights to free speech. Common areas like the cafeteria, student center, or a busy campus walkway can provide the perfect setting for such activities. This can be a prime tool to use to attract the attention of the school administration or another organization to show that your cause has campus-wide support and possibly motivate them to action. Keep the following in mind:

    Debates and Panel Discussions
    Since both sides of an issue are represented in these forums, more students are apt to attend, thus making these excellent public education activities. They may be one of the several ways to draw in and educate students who have an unfavorable impression of the organization. Debates are especially useful on campuses where the ACLU is viewed negatively and is routinely misrepresented by its detractors. Keep in mind the following:

    Public protest is a great way to raise visibility and awareness of an issue. It is often successful in pressuring universities to institute democratic policies, remedy problems, or revise student codes. If your campus group believes that your school has committed a serious civil liberties violation, holding a demonstration or setting up a picket line can sometimes be an effective means of getting your message across. Keep the following in mind:

    Planning Events

    The most important point to remember is to plan well in advance! Early planning will allow enough time to prepare thoroughly for the activity and to resolve the problems that may arise along the way. Let the following points serve as ideas, but by no means should you limit yourselves to these.
    The true nuts and bolts of planning an activity are not solely centered around having enough chairs and making sure that the juice is cold. A successful event has three distinct planning phases: pre-planning, advance work and publicity. These are all equally important and inextricably linked.

    Pre-planning is the point when you clearly identify your intermediate goal, and from that identify your short-term goals. If your intermediate goal, for example, is to stop legislation that would mandate Internet censorship, pre-planning is your chance to determine what tactics to employ.

    When deciding what tactics to employ, ask yourself the following questions:

    These questions rarely have a definitive right or wrong response, but they should spark thoughtful discussion. Then, once you and your group have done sufficient pre-planning for your event or activity, you are ready to tackle the logistics.

    Advance Planning
    In the advance planning/meeting logistics phase, the goal is preparedness. In politics, candidates have staff called advance people to assure that the event is clicking along by the time the candidate arrives. This is the work necessary for your program or event to run smoothly and successfully. Advance work can be compared to pulling a sled to the top of a hill, once you've reached the top, your event/program should simply be a fun-filled ride.

    Advance is where you find the majority of the legwork: phone calls, emails, photocopies, and the like. The basic mechanics include:

    Beyond the actual mechanics involved in planning a successful event, there are decidedly less tangible components to success that play an equally important role in proper advance. They include:

    Though these may seem apparent, they are often lost in the excitement and anxiety that can precede an event.

    Proper Advance: A Story

    During my collegiate years, long before I dreamed of becoming a professional organizer, I helped set up a campus visit by a controversial speaker. Naturally, there was some opposition. One student group in particular organized very vocal and well-attended protests from the moment the speech was announced through the actual event itself.

    I scheduled the venue well in advance, which gave me the time to check the room capacity and layout. On the day of the event, the opposition group gathered at the room in large numbers about 90 minutes before go-time. As the program protesters entered, they gathered at the far end of the room near a table where I had placed a few handouts.

    I offered them the opportunity to take a seat, as the chairs had been stacked neatly against the wall, because the program would begin soon. They jumped at the opportunity, as it was their very well orchestrated plan to set up a hostile ambush at what they perceived to be the front of the room.

    But, having planned for all the worse-case scenarios and done the necessary advance work, I had decided to use the room's layout to my advantage. After the opposition group was smugly seated and as more supportive students arrived, I rolled in the speaker's podium that I had left outside in the hallway. I placed the podium at the side of the room nearest the supportive students and I began to place chairs and seat supporters safely out of range of the would-be ambushers, now grumpy and out-maneuvered, at the back of the room. - Kevin Sproles, ACLU Campus Organizer

    Publicize, Publicize, Publicize
    Letting the media and the community-at-large know of your event is a very significant step in planning the activity. Make sure you use all the resources of your school paper. You can probably use the calendar column, the letter to the editor section, and, if you have a big event, you can perhaps convince the editors to assign a reporter to write a story about it. Make sure to include a contact name and number in the pieces for readers to call for additional information.

    Write a media advisory, which simply states the who, what, when, where and why of your event. Be sure to include a contact name and number. After faxing or emailing the advisory to the calendar editor and news desk, follow up with a phone call as it will increase the chance that is picked up. Find out the paper's deadlines, and get to know the staff writers because they will prove to be a valuable resource for your group in the future.

    Likewise, if your group has money, you can also take out an ad in the paper. Most newspapers have advertising staff that can help you put together an appealing advertisement.

    Public Service Announcements are another great way to spread the news about the event. These are concise, right-to-the-point announcements that give just the basic who, what, why, where and when information. They should be catchy as to grab the audience's interest and attention. Call your local radio or cable television station, and speak with the public service director about the station's rules on PSA submissions. Generally, they will ask for a minimum of 3 weeks advance submission. (It is wise to call to confirm the receipt of your PSA.) As always, remember to send a thank you note to your contact.

    ACLU Issues

    With effective organization, you can be at the heart of the movement to save, protect and preserve the civil liberties of all Americans. Below you will find just a few of the battles that we continue to fight and with your energy and dedication will undoubtedly win. For the latest on these and other civil liberties issues in Congress, visit

    In addition, you should encourage your members to sign-up for our on-line ACLU Action Network. They can sign up for the network by copying and forwarding the registration sheet included in Appendix D, or online at

    Proposition 209
    In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 209, which severely limited equal opportunity programs for women and people of color in employment, education, and contracting in the state. The ACLU immediately filed suit to stop the law from being applied. In April 1997, a Federal appeals court allowed the implementation of Proposition 209, giving new impetus to spur efforts to dismantle affirmative action programs nationwide.

    Recently, affirmative action programs have come under attack from those looking to turn back the progress made by minorities and women over the past 30 years. As a member of a college group of the ACLU, you are in a unique position to help fight the battle against discrimination and preserve affirmative action programs across the country.

    The battle over affirmative action is hottest on the nation's college campuses. Admission policies that seek to create a diverse student body through the use of affirmative action are increasingly coming under fire, and in states such as California and Texas have already been eliminated in an anti-affirmative action backlash. Clearly, college students such as yourself are in the eye of the storm, and thus are crucial players in the fight to save affirmative action.

    While opponents of affirmative action may claim that it has outlived its purpose, any serious look at America's classrooms and boardrooms quickly dispel such myths. Discrimination, though less overt than it was 30 years ago, is still a pervasive part of American society. Higher education is still out of reach for many people of color - only 18% of college students are African American, Latino or Native American. Women are still routinely paid less than their male counterparts, and top-level women managers are scarce. Affirmative action continues to be a powerful tool in fighting such blatant inequality.

    For more information on affirmative action., visit the ACLU web site:

    The newest frontier in assaults on the First Amendment is the Internet. The Supreme Court's ruling in Reno v. ACLU, which overturned the Communications Decency Act of 1996, was a great triumph for the First Amendment. Now Congress and the President are using other ways to try and impose censorship on the Internet, including "voluntary" ratings schemes that seek to make many Internet sites, particularly those that contain controversial speech, nearly inaccessible. We aim to convince Congress and the Administration that such measures are unconstitutional.

    For more information on cyber-liberties, visit the ACLU web site:

    The death penalty - outlawed in most of Europe, Canada, Australia and most other countries in the world - is still practiced in almost forty states.

    The ACLU and other death penalty opponents - including many religious groups and individuals, and a growing number of criminal justice officials - maintain that capital punishment constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. There are many other reasons why we oppose the death penalty as practiced in the United States:

    Even those within the criminal justice system recognize the death penalty is not the answer to our nation's violence and crime problems. When police chiefs were asked to rank the factors that, in their judgment, reduce the rate of violent crime, they mentioned curbing drug use and putting more officers on the street and gun control. They ranked the death penalty as least effective. And the Republican Governor of Illinois recently announced a moratorium on executions after DNA evidence forced the state to release yet another innocent person from death row.

    For more information on the death penalty, visit the ACLU web site:

    A free society is based on the principle that each and every individual has the right to decide what art or entertainment he or she wants - or does not want - to receive or create, and that each citizen is guaranteed the right to express him or herself freely, even if that expression may be considered offensive to someone else. Yet the government has in recent years gone on a censorship rampage, with targets including movies, popular music, the Internet and art exhibits. Censorship often manifests itself in the form of restrictions on school newspapers, artistic events and class reading lists, all of which make the First Amendment a particularly important issue for students.

    One specific fight is over the proposed "Flag Desecration" constitutional amendment, which would effectively bar use of the flag as a form of political protest. Although the amendment has failed repeatedly over the last decade, supporters continue to convince congressional leaders to bring the amendment up for votes year after year. If adopted, this would carve out an exception to the First Amendment for the first time in our nation's history.

    For more information on free speech, visit the ACLU web site:

    At no time in our nation's history have gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people been more visible, fighting for their rights in Congress, in the courts, in the workplace and in the community. While many efforts to secure LGBT rights have been successful, anti-gay hostility has become more open and virulent, posing formidable challenges to gay rights advocates. The struggle for legal equality rests on a fundamental constitutional principle:

    Equal protection under the law is guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, but in 39 states it is still perfectly legal to fire people because of their real or perceived sexual orientation. We believe that people should be judged at work by their performance, not by their private lives.

    The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, will be considered in this Congress. This bill fell just one vote shy of passage in the Senate in the 104th Congress. We are working to get ENDA passed.

    Only when equal rights are a reality for every American citizen will our society be truly free.

    For more information on LGBT rights, visit the ACLU web site:

    In recent years, a rise in verbal abuse and violence directed at people of color, lesbians and gay men and other historically persecuted groups has plagued the United States. A common setting for these expressions of intolerance is college or university campuses, where bias incidents have occurred sporadically since the mid-1980s. Given the growing racial and social diversity among students, faculty and administrators on most campuses, outrage, indignation and demands for change have understandably greeted such incidents.

    Many universities, under pressure to respond to the concerns of those who are the objects of hate, have adopted codes or policies prohibiting speech that offends any group based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.

    That is the wrong response, well-meaning or not. The First Amendment to the Constitution protects speech no matter how offensive its content. Speech codes adopted by government-financed state colleges and universities amount to government censorship in violation of the Constitution. The ACLU believes that all campuses should adhere to First Amendment principles because academic freedom is a bedrock of education in a free society.

    How much we value the right of free speech is put to its most severe test when the speaker is someone with whom we disagree most vehemently. Therefore, speech that deeply offends our morality, or is hostile to our way of life, warrants the same constitutional protection as other speech because the right of free speech is indivisible: When one is denied this right, all are denied. Since its founding in 1920, the ACLU has fought for the free expression of all ideas, popular or unpopular.

    That is the constitutional mandate. Where racist, sexist and homophobic speech is concerned, the ACLU believes that more speech - not less -- is the best response. The power of a school, college or university to eliminate bias on campus ultimately depends not on its ability to punish a racist speaker, but instead on the depth of its commitment to the principles of equality and education. All members of the academic community have the right to hold and to express views that others may find offensive or emotionally distressing.

    Freedom of thought and expression is particularly important on college campuses. The educational forum is where people come together to participate in a process of shared inquiry. Moreover, it is only in an atmosphere of openness, intellectual honesty and tolerance for the ideas and opinions of others - even the hateful or offensive ones -- that such a process can succeed.

    Compromising free speech ultimately threatens the rights of minorities. All too often, regulations on speech are used to silence the very people they were designed to protect.

    For more information on hate speech, see the following documents on the ACLU web site:
    - Racist Speech on College Campuses at
    - Briefing Paper on Hate Speech on Campus at

    The United States is in the midst of a major debate over immigrants and their economic and political place in the American social landscape. As during other times in our history, immigrants are consistently blamed for causing and/or contributing to the social, economic and political ills of our society. As a result, politicians are trying to pass punitive laws that often violate the basic civil liberties of immigrants.

    Due Process, the right to be treated fairly, whether in a deportation hearing or a criminal court proceeding, applies to every person within U.S. borders. But right now across the nation, hundreds of foreign-born individuals are being detained, deported and mistreated in violation of that right. Though the Bill of Rights does not grant foreigners the right to enter the United States, once here, the ACLU believes that all people are entitled to certain broad constitutional protections.

    Equal Protection prohibits discrimination based on race or national origin. An immigrant's rights to free speech and religious freedom are protected under the First Amendment. The Refugee Act of 1980 gives certain aliens the right to political asylum in the United States, but some politicians are trying to pass laws that would deny immigrants and their American-born children many of the rights to which they are entitled, such as the right to a free public education or free medical care.

    The ACLU believes that everyone living within U.S. borders is entitled to the liberties guaranteed by our Constitution.

    For more information on immigrants' rights, visit the ACLU web site:

    Congress considers jailing children with adults.
    Statistics show that violent crimes, as well as offenses committed by juveniles, have steadily decreased in the past few years. In their zeal to appear tough on crime, however, Members of Congress have introduced several bills in the House and the Senate to "reform" the juvenile justice system. These bills would abandon the fundamental underpinnings of our juvenile justice system -- rehabilitation -- in favor of more punitive measures.

    Among the most Draconian of the proposals is the Violent and Repeat Juvenile Offender Act of 1999 (S. 254), introduced by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT). This bill would radically alter the current juvenile justice system, using slapdash "solutions" that will not only fail to help troubled kids become productive members of society, but will present significant dangers for them as well.

    It is inhumane and dangerous to house children with adult criminals.
    S. 254 urges states to prosecute children as young as 10 as adults. It would also allow for the federal prosecution and sentencing of children as young as 14 as adults. In addition, the bill would provide funding to the states to build "co-located facilities" that would house children in adult jails and would allow children to come into "incidental contact" with adults, subjecting them, for example, to verbal abuse or worse while walking past adult cells. Respected studies have found that children commit suicide in adult jails eight times as often as children housed in juvenile detention facilities.

    Federal prosecutors must not be given unfettered power to hand down mandatory sentences and to prosecute juveniles as adults without review by judges.
    Under current law, federal judges, not prosecutors, decide whether a child should be charged as an adult. S. 254 would change that. One particularly vivid example of the dangers of such prosecutorial discretion arose recently in Florida, a state that has eliminated judicial review. In Palm Beach, a state prosecutor charged as an adult a mentally disabled 15-year-old boy who stole $2 from a classmate for food. As a result, the boy was charged with strong-arm robbery, which is punishable by life in prison, and extortion, punishable by 30 years in prison. Judicial oversight is a crucial safety check to protect against this type of overreaction by prosecutors.

    Our society must address rates of disproportionate confinement of minority youth.
    S. 254 would remove the requirement that states receiving federal funds seek solutions to the disproportionate rates of minority confinement in their detention facilities. According to the most recent government statistics, 68 percent of children in detention centers are children of color, even though they are only 32 percent of the overall population of children. These figures reflect significant increases over 1983, when minority youth represented 53 percent of the detention population and 56 percent of the secure juvenile corrections population. Clearly, the need for federal oversight to ensure racial equality within the juvenile justice system is still very necessary.

    It is in society's best interest to allow children the opportunity for rehabilitation. But one provision of S. 254 would ensure that youthful errors could scar children for life.
    S. 254 contains a provision that would open juvenile court proceedings and records, guaranteeing that those records would be accessible to schools and future employers. Opening these records would effectively prevent a child's efforts at turning around his life. For more information on immigrants' rights, visit the ACLU web site:

    How many ?!?
    Over several months in 1995, a survey of a portion of Interstate 95 in Maryland found that 73 percent of the cars stopped and searched were driven by African-Americans, while they made up only 14 percent of the people driving along the interstate.

    Police abuse continues to be a serious problem in the United States. Excessive brutality - often culminating in the use of deadly force - police harassment, racism, sexism, homophobia and disdain of youth are realities in many cities and towns across our nation. Racial patterns in stops, searches and arrests clearly demonstrate discrimination.

    While youth and people of color are certainly vulnerable to discrimination and harassment by the police, no one is exempt. The ACLU is actively involved in combating police abuse. We represent hundreds of people who have suffered abuse at the hands of the police, or whose due process rights have been violated during the course of a police encounter. We are also working to get laws passed that protect people from police abuse.

    Driving While Black or Brown
    Ever increasing numbers of African-American and Latino males - including prominent athletes, Members of Congress, actors and business leaders - have reported experiencing the humiliation of being stopped on the nation's roads for no other reason than the alleged traffic offense derisively referred to as Driving While Black or Brown (DWB). In response, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan has proposed legislation that would begin to address this unjust practice. The "Traffic Stops Statistics Act of 1999" would encourage police departments to keep detailed records of traffic stops, including the race and ethnicity of the person stopped. The Justice Department would be charged with collecting the data and determining the full scope of this problem nationwide.

    Fair and equal treatment is a birthright for all Americans, but without responsible policing, it just doesn't happen.

    For more information on DWB visit the ACLU web site:

    Privacy Rights
    From using the telephone to seeking medical treatment, from applying for a job or sending email over the Internet, our right to privacy is in danger. Our personal and business information is being electronically transmitted and stored on an ever-expanding number of computer networks. Therefore, our most private information can be linked, transferred, shared and sold - usually without our knowledge or consent. Too many companies and government agencies use our Social Security Number as a personal identifier, making that nine-digit code a basic passkey to some of our most sensitive private information.

    Government agencies, credit bureaus, employers, insurance companies - even nosy computer hackers - may be able to find out a lot more about each of us than we would like them to know. Medical privacy, database linking and digital technology are three main areas where our privacy rights are extremely vulnerable. We all like the convenience that electronic communication provides, but our government must ensure that individual privacy is not washed away by either over-intrusive corporations or the government itself. The ACLU is working to convince Congress and the President that we need laws that protect our privacy.

    For more information on privacy rights, visit the ACLU web site:

    Government efforts to chip away at individual's religious choices and observances, or to compel citizens to behave religiously or to promote one religion over others, are unconstitutional. We believe that government-organized and -sponsored devotional exercises in public school settings are inconsistent with the principle of religious liberty. Such exercises may make children feel they must participate or face the disdain of their teachers, administrators and fellow students.

    Children whose religious beliefs are different from those of the majority must not be made to feel like outsiders while in the public educational system. But Congress is slated to consider a number of proposals that would put our religious freedom at risk. These include a constitutional amendment that would allow students to lead prayers at mandatory school events and for government officials to make decisions that favor one faith over another. Further attacks on the separation of church and state are expected through proposals for school voucher programs, which would spend taxpayers' money to send children to religious schools.

    Issues of religious freedom are especially important to students as, more and more, our nation's schools are becoming battlegrounds where opponents of separation of church and state seek to violate the rights of students and citizens and influence the government with their own personal religious beliefs.

    If religious liberty is really to be preserved in this country, we must retain a strong separation of church and state.

    For more information on religious freedom, visit the ACLU web site:

    Reproductive Rights

    The Constitution's guarantee of the right to personal autonomy -- which is part of the right to privacy - carries over to one's right to make decisions about parenthood. This includes questions of whether a woman has the right to decide for herself whether to complete or terminate a pregnancy, as well as the right to use contraception and freedom from forced sterilization or from employment discrimination based on childbearing capacity.

    The Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide, led to a dramatic improvement in the lives and health of women. Twenty-seven years later, Roe still protects the right of women to make life choices in keeping with their conscience or religious beliefs. This freedom is consistent with American tradition. And by relieving American women of the burden of unwanted pregnancies, Roe has permitted them to pursue economic opportunities on a more equal basis with men.

    The movement to restrict reproductive choice is not only an attack on personal autonomy but also on the principle of equality for women. The anti-choice movement gravely threatens all Americans' cherished right to privacy, bodily integrity and religious liberty.

    For more information on reproductive rights, visit the ACLU web site:

    Women's Rights

    And the winner is . . .
    The largest group of Americans to benefit from affirmative action so far is women. But, attacks on affirmative action (See Issues: affirmative action above) from state to state and in Congress threaten to undermine 30 years of advances toward equality.

    Our country has been largely successful in eliminating many of the sexist laws that have historically held women back. Gender-based discrimination has been banned by federal and state law in employment, education and housing. But there are still many crucial areas where the struggle for women's equality goes on.

    Paternalistic labor laws that, in the name of protecting women, served to keep them out of better paying jobs have been abolished. As a result, women today participate in all realms of society on a more equal basis than ever before. But discrimination against women persists.

    Women still earn far less than men for the same work. The "glass ceiling" is still a barrier to women's workplace advancement. And while guaranteed under the Constitution, the right to abortion is under sustained attack. Female students are also often victims of sex discrimination in their schools in the form of sexual harassment from teachers or fellow classmates, unequal funding for girls' and women's sports, practices that officially or unofficially discourage girls and women from pursuing math and science, and under-representation of women's historical, cultural, literary, artistic, scientific and social contributions to our society.

    Equality for women is not a "done deal" by any stretch of the imagination. If we want to advance equality, not roll it back, we have to vigilantly defend women's rights, and extend more rights to more women in this country.

    For more information on women's rights, visit the ACLU web site:


    We hope that you will find the following appendices useful as the beginning of your ACLU group's reference library. These though, are just a start. Be sure to tour our website (see the "Your ACLU Connection" section of the manual) for documents and material that will make your organizing that much easier, and that much more effective. We also encourage you to remove appendices B and C from this section, copy them and distribute them to each member of your group for their personal files.

    Appendix A: State Affiliate Contact List

    For your local ACLU please visit

    Appendix B: Sample Constitution



    ARTICLE I: Purpose and Status

    1. In order to promote discussion and awareness of civil liberties issues and to safeguard civil liberties, we hereby establish the American Civil Liberties Union Yale College Chapter.
    2. The ACLU Yale College Chapter is a chapter of the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union (CCLU), which is an affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The CCLU retains full control over the operation of this Chapter. The ACLU Yale College Chapter shall abide by ACLU and CCLU policies.
    3. The ACLU Yale College Chapter is an official Yale College. undergraduate organization and shall act in strict compliance with the Yale College Undergraduate Regulations. The Chapter does not purport to represent the views or opinions of Yale University or Yale College.
    4. This Article may not be amended, directly or indirectly, without the approval of the CCLU and the Yale College Dean's Office.

    ARTICLE II: Membership

    1. Membership shall be open to all current students, faculty, and staff of Yale University, regardless of age, creed, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, or status as a veteran.
    2. Since the ACLU Yale College Chapter is an undergraduate organization, only registered students in good standing in Yale College shall be full members, and all others shall be associate members. A majority of full members shall be maintained, and if there is an excess of non-undergraduates, the most seniority and greatest meeting attendance will decide who shall be an associate member.
    3. Members are encouraged to become members of the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union, but this is not required, nor are any dues required to participate in the Chapter.

    ARTICLE III: Officers

    1. The officers of the Chapter shall include an Executive Board consisting of an Executive Director, a Chair, a Director of Public Relations, and a Treasurer. Officers must be full members.
    2. The Executive Board shall vote on any pressing decision facing the Chapter. No member of the Board has veto power. In the case of a tied vote, the full and associate members shall break the tie at a meeting. The vote must have been previously announced.
    3. The Executive Director shall be responsible for contacts with the Yale administration, the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union, governmental bodies, and other groups, and for monitoring events in New Haven, Connecticut, and the nation.
    4. The Chair shall be responsible for the general supervision of the Chapter's events, committees, and programs. The Chair is not the chair of the Executive Board.
    5. The Director of Public Relations shall be responsible for the Internet site, publications, newsletters, posters, and other applicable media.
    6. The Treasurer shall be responsible for the financial affairs of the Chapter, and shall keep accurate financial records.
    7. Committees may be formed by the Executive Board to address various topics. Committee chairs shall be designated to supervise the activities of each committee.

    ARTICLE IV: Finances

    1. The ACLU Yale College Chapter is a non-profit organization.
    2. An accurate record of all income and expenses shall be maintained at all times. Receipts shall be written for all contributions. The financial records of the Chapter shall be subject to audit by the Executive Board and Yale University at any time.
    3. In the event that the chapter disbands, all disposable property will b distributed to appropriate divisions of Yale College by the Yale College Dean' Office. Remaining funds acquired from Yale University shall be distributed to the Yale College Dean's Office. All other funds remaining will be distributed to the CCLU. Notification must be given to the CCLU and to the national headquarters of the ACLU.

    ARTICLE V: Elections

    1. Officers shall be elected annually by the members of the Chapter. Elections shall be held in April, and the term of office shall begin one week following the election. Members must be notified of elections and available positions at least two weeks prior to the election.
    2. All members shall have one vote by secret ballot. Any active full member may nominate himself or herself or any other active full member for a position.
    3. A full member who attends at least two meetings each semester shall be considered an active full member of the organization. Attendance is subject to verification by the Executive Board. Any denials of membership may be appealed first to the Executive Board and then to the Yale College Dean of Student Affairs.
    4. Elections will begin with the first position named in the Constitution and will proceed from the Executive Board to committee chairs. If there is only one contested position in the Executive Board, or among the committees, the contested position will be voted upon first. The order of voting upon positions does not imply any hierarchy among the positions of the Executive Board.
    5. Each candidate will speak for no more than ten minutes before a vote takes place. Those who are not elected to a position may be considered for a remaining position if they desire to be so considered.
    6. New positions can be created during elections by a two-thirds majority vote. Elections may be called at any other time by a two-thirds majority vote.

    ARTICLE VI: Amendments

    1. A two-thirds majority vote of active full members as defined by this Constitution shall be sufficient for the ratification of this Constitution.
    2. This Constitution may be amended by a two-thirds majority vote of active full members.

    Appendix C: Resource Sheets

    How To Communicate with Your Members of Congress
    Please visit

    How To Lobby
    Please visit

    Letter to the Editor
    Please visit

    Appendix D: ACLU Action Network Registration

    Join our Action Network at

    Prepared by the American Civil Liberties Union

    Washington National Legislative Communications Unit
    122 Maryland Avenue NE
    Washington, DC 20002

    and the

    Public Education Department
    125 Broad Street, 18th floor
    New York, NY 10004

    July 2000

    Eternal Vigilance Is the Price of Liberty

    Copyright 2000, The American Civil Liberties Union