The loss of an adviser, a new executive board and adding a more international focus are just a few changes that the Civil Liberties Union at IUS is going through.
The Civil Liberties Union is a special interest group that lobbies to protect and defend civil liberties. According to their website, the mission of the American CLU is to promote, protect and defend the rights, liberties and freedom guaranteed to all people in our state by the U.S. and Indiana Constitution.
This past summer the group lost their academic advisor and mentor Dr. Thomas Kotulak to a severe heart attack. He was beloved by several members as well as current and former students. Dejan Tomanic, the current CLU president, said Kotulak was the foundation of the university’s CLU and the person who kept the group connected to the ACLU of Indiana.
“We all remind each other of our time with Doc, still though we all miss him very much.” Amad Ali said. Ali is part of a scholarship planning group that is being formed in memory of Dr. Kotulak.
The CLU is in disbelief of how sudden the loss of their advisor was and is working diligently to ensure that the CLU stays as successful and effective as an active chapter at the university, state, and nation.
“We have been extremely grateful and lucky to have support from a multitude of sources.” Tomanic said. “We have been assured and reassured that we have this incredible support network.”
Dr. Kotulak was an associate professor of political science since 1995 according to the university’s website. He was very active in the CLU and only missed two meetings the 17 years he was a part of the group. Since 2001 he was an active member of the Board of Directors for the state of Indiana’s Civil Liberty Union.
“We are actively seeking out a new adviser,” Dejan Tomanic CLU President said. “We have actually had several professors show a keen interest in getting involved.” The process is still in its early stages.
“IUS CLU is the longest continuous student running chapter in the Midwest.” Tomanic said. “Largely on the back of our cornerstone’s (Dr.Kotulak) hard and diligent work.”
Currently there is a scholarship being formed in honor of Dr. Kotulak’s memory. Tomanic says the name of the scholarship is Doctor Kotulak Bridge Builder Scholarship named after his favorite poem.
Ali says that the group is roughly 12 people working together with faculty, alumni, current students, and Kotulak’s family and is also working on setting up different events, plaque, photos and possibly a statue for the university.
This year the IUS chapter is going into its eighteenth year on the campus. Last semester the group doubled its size. Former President Stephon Moore says as of last year there were 18 dues paid members that are in good standing. This means that these members attend over half their meetings, put in volunteer hours and paid money to be a part of the group.
Tomanic being voted president is just one change to the executive board for the group this year. He was elected in the spring to serve as president. Tomanic is not the only new person to serve on the executive board. The group has a new Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary.
Two of the major events that the CLU hosts are The Constitution Day Forum, which takes place Sept. 19, and the spring forum. The Constitution Day Forum is held by several different groups and covers a variety of topics each year that have to do with different constitutional rights. This year’s topic for the CLU is Strategic, Moral and Ethical Implications of Drone Warfare. Tomanic said they have an all-star panel that is almost finalized that plans to discuss different issues related to surveillance in the skies and the use of armed drones.
“On average roughly 70 to 100 students attend any given event,” Tomanic said, “but often we exceed that.”
Last year the group had close to 140 people attend its spring forum on marijuana laws. Moore said that the spring forum had the highest turnout of people attending in the history of the local chapter.
This past Thursday was the CLU’s first meeting of the year. Current students, former students, and members attended the first meeting of this academic year and there were only standing room available for attendees. The group meets the first Thursday of every month at 7:30pm.
Tomanic says that the group has plans on expanding their goals. Such steps include taking a more international focus and stretch the range of topics that the group discusses.
“Every single student on this campus, in this state, in this country, honestly every single citizen ought to know that what the American Civil Liberties Union does,” Tomanic said. “And that is lobby for each and every single one of our constitutional rights. We are here because freedom can’t protect itself.”