Students for Liberty

Students For Liberty
Founded July 24, 2008[1]
Founders Alexander McCobin, Sloane Frost, Richard Tracy, Sam Eckman, and Pin-Quan Ng
Type 501(c)(3) public charity[2]
Focus Civil society, civic engagement and social entrepreneurship
  • 1101 17th Street NW, Suite 810
    Washington, DC 20036
Area served
Method Education and leadership programs
Key people
  • Wolf von Laer (CEO)

Students For Liberty (SFL) is an American libertarian non-profit organization whose stated mission is "to educate, develop, and empower the next generation of leaders of liberty."[4] Formed in 2008 after a meeting at which students shared ideas and experiences about libertarian student groups, SFL has since grown into a full organization with various programs[5] and a network of affiliated student groups.[6][7]

The organization hosts an annual international conference as well as various regional conferences. As of 2014, the SFL network self-reported that it had a membership of 1,000 student organizations around the world.[8] SFL's expansion is encouraged and supported by current students involved in its Campus Coordinators program.[9]

On August 1, 2016, Wolf von Laer became the Chief Executive Officer.[10]



Students participating in an Institute for Humane Studies Koch Summer Fellowship got together on July 24, 2007 to discuss successes and challenges faced by libertarian student organizations. In 2008, Alexander McCobin and Sloane Frost decided to organize a conference for 40 students who were involved in libertarian student organizations. As more students contacted the planners to participate, more students joined the planning. The first Students for Liberty conference was held at Columbia University from February 22 to 24, 2008, with 100 students participants. The perceived success of the conference encouraged the planners to form Students For Liberty to provide continuing support to student groups.[11][12]

In the news

McCobin speaking at CPAC in Washington, DC

SFL co-founder and former president Alexander McCobin opened his remarks on the February 19, 2010 panel “2 Minute Activist: Saving Freedom Across America” at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) by thanking the American Conservative Union for welcoming GOProud as a co-sponsor of the event.[13][14][15][16] Ryan Sorba, California Young Americans for Freedom's chairman and author of The "Born Gay" Hoax,[17] followed with harsh words for McCobin, SFL, Young Americans for Liberty’s Jeff Frazee, and the American Conservative Union.[13][14][15][16][18]



Each year, SFL hosts the largest gathering of libertarian students in the world[19] at the annual International Students For Liberty Conference (ISFLC). The inaugural ISFLC in 2008 brought 100 students from 42 schools in three countries to New York City. The second ISFLC in 2009 brought 153 students from 13 countries to George Washington University.[20] The third ISFLC took place February 13–14, 2010 at American University in Washington, DC and had more than 300 students in attendance. The fourth ISFLC, covered by ReasonTV, returned to George Washington University on Friday, February 18–20, 2011, this time with 500 students participating.[21][22][23] This international conference included a taping of Stossel, which aired March 31, in which John Stossel and Cato Institute Vice President David Boaz spoke to students about the ideas of liberty.[24] The 2012 ISFLC brought out 1,013 students. The following year, the conference attracted 1,406 attendees.

Participants at the first Students For Liberty European conference at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

During the fall semester, SFL hosts regional conferences on campuses across the world.[6][25] On November 18 to 20, 2011, SFL hosted the first European conference at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Leuven, Belgium with over 200 students from 25 different countries attending.[1][26] In 2013-2014, SFL hosted over 30 regional conferences in North America, Brazil, the Spanish-speaking Americas, and in Africa with over 5,000 student attendees.

Free Books

SFL, in conjunction with the Atlas Network, publishes a new book each year for libertarian student groups.[27] Previous books include The Economics of Freedom: What Your Professor Won't Tell You, The Morality of Capitalism: What Your Professors Won't Tell You, After the Welfare State, and Why Liberty. SFL's current book publication is Peace, Love, & Liberty and includes essays from writers such as Steven Pinker, Radley Balko, and Tom G. Palmer.[28]

Virtual Speakers Bureau

SFL's Virtual Speakers Bureau allows student groups to choose from over 30 speakers to host at one of their campus meetings through Skype, Google Hangouts, or GoToMeeting.[29] Some of the speakers include Andrew Bernstein, Greg Lukianoff, Jim Lark, Jeffrey Tucker, Lawrence Reed, Michael Huemer, Michael Strong, Tom G. Palmer, and Steven Horwitz.

Webinar Series

SFL hosts seminars that are delivered with web conferencing technology. Held weekly during the academic year since 2009, the topics tend to focus on career advice, economics, history, law, leadership, philosophy, public policy, public speaking, and statistics. Past guest speakers include Jeffrey Miron of Harvard University, Bob Ewing of the Institute for Justice, John Hasnas of Georgetown University, Lawrence Reed of the Foundation for Economic Education, Jim Lark of the University of Virginia, Radley Balko of The Huffington Post, David Friedman of Santa Clara University, LGBT activist Zach Wahls, Tyler Cowen, Bryan Caplan, Peter Boettke, and Chris Coyne of George Mason University.

Campus Coordinator Program

Campus Coordinators work with campus group leaders within a designated regional area to form and support student groups and to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of programs.[9] The 2010–2011 school year saw the inaugural year of the program.[9] Training is provided by the full-time staff as well as executive board members. The 2011–2012 class of coordinators included 60 students from the United States, Canada and Venezuela.[9] The 2013-2014 campus coordinator class included 120 students from across the continent.

Alumni For Liberty

Alumni For Liberty Logo

Alumni For Liberty is a network of working professionals interested in supporting students and student organizations dedicated to libertarianism.[30] The program is open to all adults interested in supporting the student movement, whether or not they were a member of a liberty oriented student group.[31] The project provides ways to remain involved in supporting the student movement for liberty with monthly updates describing opportunities such as networking events, job openings, training sessions, leadership dinners, options for financial support of alma mater student groups, speaking to student groups, and mentoring of students interested in related careers.[30]

Organizational structure

SFL is a 501(c)(3) organization that supports student groups advocating libertarianism. SFL is run by over 20 full-time professionals at its headquarters in Washington, DC.[32] Direction of the organization comes from the executive director, the board of directors, and the International Executive Board.

Alexander McCobin serves as executive director. McCobin, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University.[33] In 2009, McCobin was sued by Perspectives Debate Inc., a nonprofit organization he had founded while a student at the University of Pennsylvania, for allegedly breaching his fiduciary duty by misappropriating funds and allegedly withdrawing more than $37,000 from the organization's bank account.[34][35]

North America

Students For Liberty got its start in North America and has grown tremendously ever since. In the 2013-2014 school year, 2,721 students attended SFL's 18 fall North American regional conferences. 1,275 students attended the 6th annual International Students For Liberty Conference in Washington D.C. on February 14–16, 2014. In the same year, SFL's North American network grew to over 913 student groups with 120 Campus Coordinators.


In 2011, SFL established an executive board to expand their programs into Europe.[36] On November 18–20, 2011 SFL hosted the first European Students for Liberty Conference (ESFLC) at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Leuven, Belgium.[1] A second conference on the same location was held on March 8–10, 2013. In 2013, a total of 1,234 people attended 10 fall regional conferences across the continent. In March 2014, the third annual ESFLC was held in the German capital Berlin at the Humboldt University of Berlin, which attracted 560 attendees from 28 countries. The 19 regional conferences from September to November 2015 gathered in total 3155 participants.

As of March 2016, European Students for Liberty is governed by an Executive Board of 10 students and recent graduates, chaired by Stoyan Panchev.

In March 2016, European Students For Liberty held its annual conference at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic for over 900 people with the theme "Students We Should Remember." Speakers included Lawrence Reed, Tom G. Palmer, Lutz Kleveman, Annie Machon, Richard Vedder, and more.

In the United Kingdom, European Students for Liberty is affiliated to Young Britons for Liberty, a classical liberal thinktank in the UK aimed at 18 to 35 year olds. [37]

Spanish Speaking Americas

In the spring of 2013, SFL launched Estudiantes por la Libertad, the Regional Executive Board for the Spanish-speaking Americas. The first Estudiantes por la Libertad Conference was held in Santiago, Chile from October 25–27 for 100 attendees. As of 2014, the Local Coordinator program included 103 student leaders from around Latin America.


African Students For Liberty (ASFL) ran the first West African Regional Conference on July 26–27, 2013 at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria and brought out 352 participants—SFL's largest ever first-time conference. ASFL organized the first East African Regional Conference in Nairobi, Kenya on May 9–10, 2014 and launched a Local Coordinator program the same year. The first African Students For Liberty Conference brought out 1180 students from all over Africa.

South Asia

South Asia Students For Liberty became an official SFL Regional Executive Board in 2014 with 20 Local Coordinators.


Incorporated[2] as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, SFL continues to seek and accept only private donations[38] from individuals, foundations, and participation fees. During its first year, SFL raised fifty thousand dollars in revenue.[38] The organization's revenue grew, realizing almost a quarter of a million dollars in the second[1] year, then over one-half million dollars in the third[39] year. Expenses ran 65% of revenue in the first[38] year, 75% of revenue in the second[1] year, and 80% of revenue in the third[39] year. In its sixth year, SFL's expenses increased from $1.4 million to $2.6 million and revenue increased from $1.9 million to $2.9 million.[40]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Students For Liberty, "2009–2010 Annual Report", , Washington, DC, July 20, 2010
  2. 1 2 3 Internal Revenue Service (2012). Exempt Organizations Select Check (Report). Washington, DC: Internal Revenue Service.
  3. Stossel, John (2014-02-19). "Students for Liberty". Fox News. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  4. "Professor Kiesling Headlines Students For Liberty Regional Conference". Northwestern Business Review. 2011-09-29. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  5. Woodruff, Betsy (February 18, 2013). "Moving the Liberty Movement". National Review. Retrieved February 18, 2013.
  6. 1 2 Herald Staff (November 6, 2011). "Libertarians promote justice for all". Boston Herald. Archived from the original on November 8, 2011. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
  7. Kennerly, Britt (December 4, 2011). "Baby boomer activists pass the protest torch to a new generation". Florida Today. Melbourne, FL. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  8. Students For Liberty, "2010–2011 SFL Annual Report",, Washington, DC, July 2, 2014
  9. 1 2 3 4 Butler, Robert (2012-04-18). "How SFL's Campus Coordinator Program Changed My Life". Williamson County Libertarian Party.
  10. "Announcing SFL's Next CEO: Wolf von Laer". SFL Blog. 2016-07-11. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
  11. John Stossel "(I Didn't Know) I'm a Libertarian", , Stossel, March 31, 2011
  12. Jonathan Perri "Interview: Alexander McCobin of Students For Liberty", , HeadCount, January 14, 2011
  13. 1 2 Gene Healy, "Don't trust anyone under 30?", , Washington Examiner, Washington, DC, March 2, 2010 Archived copy at the Library of Congress (November 25, 2010).
  14. 1 2 Michael C. Moynihan, "You Know the Lowlights. Here Are a Few Highlights from CPAC...Seriously", , Reason, February 21, 2010
  15. 1 2 Gregg Re, "CPAC speaker booed for APPLAUDING gay group invite", , The Daily Caller, February 19, 2010 Archived May 26, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  16. 1 2 William Upton, "Fear and Loathing at CPAC", , The American Conservative, February 22, 2010
  17. Sorba, Ryan (2007). "The "Born Gay" Hoax" (PDF). Wilmington, DE: MassResistance. p. 95.
  18. Vita Brevis, "CPAC Civil War", , Daily Kos, February 19, 2010
  19., The Washington Times. "Largest gathering of Libertarians 'in the world' now underway in New Hampshire". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2016-10-22.
  20. Damon W. Root, "Students For Liberty", , February 13, 2009.
  21. Josh Swain "What We Saw at the Students For Liberty Conference 2011", , ReasonTV, February 28, 2011
  22. John Stossel "Students Who Get It!", ,, March 30, 2011
  23. Gene Healy "Young Libertarian Activists Point Way to Freedom's Future", , The Washington Examiner, February 22, 2011
  24. John Stossel "This Week's Show: Students Who Get It!", , Fox Business, March 30, 2011
  25. Students For Liberty, "2010–2011 SFL Midyear Report", , Washington, DC, December 8, 2010
  26. Students For Liberty, "2011–2012 SFL Midyear Report", , Washington, DC, December 14, 2011
  30. 1 2 "Northwood's Deming named to Alumni For Liberty". Midland Daily News. December 3, 2011. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  31. Robinson, Jenna Ashley (2010-06-10). "Standing Up to My Alma Mater". John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.
  32. "Staff Page". SFL Website. Students for Liberty. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
  33. "Alexander McCobin". Georgetown University. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  34. "Alum sued for misappropriating funds from debate organization". The Daily Pennsylvanian. 2009-04-02. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  35. "A young dynamo hits turbulence". Boston Globe. 2010-02-28. Archived from the original on 2010-10-31. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  36. About ESFL | Students For Liberty
  37. Young Britons for Liberty Executive Board 01/08/2016
  38. 1 2 3 McCobin, Alexander. "Finances". Finances. Archived from the original on November 29, 2010. Retrieved November 29, 2010.
  39. 1 2 Students For Liberty, "2010–2011 Annual Report", , Washington, DC, July 20, 2011
  40. Students For Liberty, "2013–2014 Annual Report", , Washington, DC, July 2, 2014
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