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Live from FreedomFest: Students for Liberty

Students for Liberty booth at FreedomFest 2014

FreedomFest, the world's largest gathering of free minds, hosts many of the liberty movement’s best known names and organizations, but the most important organization attending this year’s FreedomFest may be one you’ve never heard of: Students for Liberty.

Students for Liberty was founded in 2008 by a group of students who wanted to make a difference by supporting their fellow libertarian students on campus. Libertarian student groups had long been isolated from one another and the larger liberty movement. The initial Students For Liberty Conference at Columbia University was originally planned for around 30 students, but demand far exceeded those estimates and 100 students ended up attending the conference in spite of a blizzard that shut down most of the region that week.

SFL is not a top down, chapter based, or membership organization. Instead SFL functions as a network of pro-liberty students from a wide diversity of locations and backgrounds.

SFL works with a diversity of student organizations across the many ideological positions within the philosophy of liberty. These include the campus Young Americans for Liberty, Students For Liberty, College Libertarians, free speech clubs, small “l” libertarian association, economics club, Objectivist society, Austrian Economics reading group, Students for Individual Liberty, and any other group that supports an idea or cause of liberty.

What began as a small meeting of young leaders has become an international movement of students with over 1,100 groups around the world and operations on every inhabited continent.

Students for Liberty provides many volunteers for FreedomFest. Part of the goal of bringing dozens of college students to the event is to connect liberty minded students with other participating organizations. But exposing the participating Students for Liberty to the top leaders and thinkers of the liberty movement also helps energize the students to grow the liberty movement on their campuses and recruit new activists into movement.

Suzanne Schaefer, Campus Coordinator for Students for Liberty at Indiana University, Bloomington, said she was interested in the pro-liberty movement when she got to college and figured “on a campus of 40,000 there had to be something going on.”

Schaefer eventually connected with Students for Liberty, attended a meeting in Chicago, attended the SFL international meeting and went through the Campus Coordinator program. “Students for Liberty has a way of sucking you in,” said Schaefer, who in addition to being IU Students for Liberty Campus Coordinator also writes about pro-liberty issues on social media.

Emily Rhorick, a student at The College of Charleston in South Carolina, came to Students for Liberty through her interest in Freakonomics.  Rhorick said she stumbled on Freakonomics in high school and was hooked. She, too, went through the SFL Campus Coordinator program and now sits on the North American Executive Board of the organization.

In explaining why Students for Liberty was such a presence at FreedomFest and why the organization was becoming such a key element of the growth of the pro-liberty movement Emily Rhorick summed-up why we think Students for Liberty may just be the most important pro-liberty organization you’ve never heard of. “The more young people you get involved,” said Rhorick, “the more you’re going to make change.”

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