College campuses, once the mecca of free inquiry, are hostile places for questioning souls exploring the meaning of life. Some groups, however, are changing that and encouraging cultural and institutional change on college and university campuses worldwide.
One such group is Students for Liberty. Peter on the latest episode of Giving Ventures interviews Dr. Wolf von Laer, chief executive officer of Students for Liberty, for an update on the latest developments and activities to promote and spread freedom in academia and beyond.
Students for Liberty is a global network of libertarian students on college and university campuses across the globe. Its primary focus is to education, develop and empower students to share their ideas through hosting campus events and activities.
Empowering Students Worldwide
“I would say that the first thing is that we have a heavy focus on empowerment of the students,” says Dr. von Laer. “We are investing in the students to become trained advocates for the ideas of liberty,” he adds, noting students are the primary force behind the organization.
Students are encouraged to play to their strengths and not limited in how they choose to promote civil discourse and free expression on their campus. Some students organize events while others like to write blog posts, but the mission depends on the motivation of the students.
“They are volunteers and they have to dedicate at least four hours every single week to spread the ideas on campus but it’s not like my staff or me telling them what to do. It’s mostly about them driving these events and protests and whatever else they want to do on campus.”
“There’s no silver bullet of achieving liberty and so therefore we want students to have really free range of different activities.
Measuring Students’ Efforts to Spread Liberty
Last year alone, SFL-affiliated students hosted 1,900 events on campuses worldwide that were attended by a whopping 215,000 people with a mix of virtual and in-person events. All of these events were spearheaded by active student volunteers in more than 100 countries.
While the organization has a global focus, it remains an influential presence on college and university campuses in the United States, too, with about one-third of its budget going toward operations and programming for U.S.-based student activities.
Another component that makes Students for Liberty unique is its emphasis on civil discourse and persuasion. The charity helps students hone their thinking, writing and presentation skills with the ultimate goal of fostering lively debate—skills that’ll benefit students beyond the classroom.
“Campus is just a reflection of the broader society and our Congress. And people are yelling at one another in Congress and they’re yelling at one another on campus. I think we need to overcome that as a society if you ever want to go into a direction of liberty and justice and principles that I know the donors at DonorsTrust care about,” says von Laer.
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