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On Nov. 12 of last year, Arizona State University professor Ersula Ore filed a $2 million dollar claim against the school’s police department, alleging false arrest, assault, battery, and violation of due process. The lawsuit came after Ore was stopped by Police Officer Ferrin for crossing a closed street on campus. When she refused to produce ID and questioned what she had done wrong, Officer Ferrin physically accosted her and then detained her for aggravated assault, jaywalking, and resisting arrest. Last month, an independent investigation concluded that Officer Ferrin did not have good reason to arrest her, as Ore had yielded to traffic and was not required to produce ID. Indeed, all of the charges against Ore were eventually dropped, with the exception of resisting arrest. The report further noted that Officer Ferrin has a history of acting inappropriately and unprofessionally. Then, following notification of ASU’s intent to terminate him, Ferrin resigned on Feb. 16 of this year.ASU-new-logo

Before considering the deeper implications of this incident, I’d like to present a brief summary of the events that lead to Ore’s arrest. Video footage went viral due to the excessive force with which she was treated. In the footage, onlookers can be heard protesting her treatment and suggesting that the officer “keep [his] hands off of her.” Ore, in an official statement released by her attorney, explained that she felt disrespected by Ferrin. Indeed, many of his comments are derogatory and condescending. For instance, he asked her “Are you aware that this is a street?” and informed her, “If you don’t understand the law, I’m explaining the law to you.” Then, the conflict became physical as Ore refused to consent to an arrest she believed was unlawful. During the altercation, Ore’s skirt became hiked up around her waist. When Ferrin reached out to pull down her skirt, Ore understandably misinterpreted his action as an attempt to reach under her clothing. She kicked his shin to deflect further inappropriate contact. After repeatedly ordering her to put her hands behind her back, Ferrin threatened to “slam” her onto the police car—a threat he followed through with shortly thereafter.

In her statement, Ore explains that she felt scared. Despite protesting her innocence, she pled guilty to avoid the risk of having a felony on her record, which would affect her employment, right to vote, and right to bear arms. Sadly, our current criminal justice system often relies on fear of severe punishment to exact cooperation. In 2010, nearly nine out of every ten cases ended in plea bargaining. In other words, nine out of ten people would rather plead guilty to a charge than fight it, presumably to avoid harsher sentencing. This cannot be considered justice.

That law enforcement often relies on intimidation to make people afraid and cooperative has dangerous implications.

Officer Ferrin is probably not a bad person. He is a Boy Scout, LDS missionary, and father. However, nobody is perfect or immune to error, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. For instance, the independent investigation revealed that Ferrin takes a “rigid, power-based approach to law enforcement and [demonstrates] unwillingness to exercise discretion and sound judgment.” In fact, a similar incident occurred five days before Ore’s arrest. Afterwards, Ferrin was counseled to exercise better discernment and good communication, advice he apparently did not heed.


Officer Ferrin was not fired for the incident

This is not surprising. Incidents like this are all too frequent in The United States. Law enforcement officers rarely face serious consequences, even when their actions cause innocent civilians to die. However, in saying this I do not mean to condemn all police officers and government agents as immoral or evil; while there exist bad apples in every bunch, the real problem lies in a flawed criminal justice system that does not incentivize police officers to follow the same laws they are entrusted to enforce. The ways in which the state encourages law enforcement agents to become blinded by power remain evident in Ferrin’s recent statements. Despite committing multiple ASU policy violations and having five citizen complaints against him (more than twice the number of any officer), Ferrin still refuses to admit to any wrongdoing, nor has he faced serious sanctions. He was allowed to resign on his own terms, and even if Ore’s lawsuit succeeds, none of the money will come from Ferrin’s wallet.

In short, there exists no reason to believe that government actors are more altruistic than the average individual. Giving certain people legal power over others will wreak disastrous consequences if that power is not strongly contained by checks and balances. For example, when police officers break the law on the job, they should have to face jail time or other appropriate punishment. Yet, Officer Ferrin’s actions represent an increasingly popular attitude—whether consciously recognized or not—that a government-issued badge grants ultimate authority and impunity.


This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions. If you’re a student interested in presenting your perspective on this blog, visit our guest submissions page. Like what you read here? You can sign up for a weekly digest of the SFL blog and subscribe for a weekly update on SFL’s events, leadership programs, and resources here.

The following was written by a guest blogger, Clayton Schleg.

Recently, the topic of safe spaces has risen  in some libertarian circles. Students For Liberty Campus Coordinator and blog team member, Cory Massimino, wrote a great piece on the subject that everyone should read. In it, Cory outlines a number of his thoughts on safe spaces and their relationship to libertarians and libertarianism. However, I think that many libertarians have both misconceptions and concerns regarding safe spaces. Hopefully, this piece will give light to their importance.

A safe space is a social arrangement that ensures its participants are made neither a spectacle, nor a target, by virtue of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gendered performance, sexual orientation, ability, or legal status, among other things.

They are inclusive and accepting of difference, and often aim to underscore the similarities between us all. These spaces are formed by and for persons who are made to feel uncomfortable fully expressing themselves in other social spaces. Safe spaces are a testament to human agency; even when people are marginalized by prevailing social and political institutions, they have been able to seek new arrangements and take direct action. Note the lack of state enforcement in this arrangement.

Safe spaces serve a few roles, theoretically and in practice.  The clearest role is refuge. When a person is a member of one or more marginalized groups, one is subject to torment and abuse, among other things. Safe spaces allow marginalized people a place where they might feel more comfortable simply being. They become hubs, where the marginalized can meet one another, share their individual experiences, and build a body of knowledge based on their subjective encounters. With this new knowledge, they can then direct their action.

The second role that safe spaces play is a pre-figurative sociopolitical arrangement. They are a means of planting the seed for a new world in the shell of the old. Safe spaces function as nexuses from which new norms form and grow. These norms are often foreign to those who are not part of marginalized or radical subcultures. Safe  spaces can show the efficacy of these new norms by demonstrating them in action, and can make their common implementation easier by exemplifying them.

While they might be organized by and for the purposes listed above, it can’t be said that an individual controls a safe space. No one person owns or has propriety over a safe space. It is a social arrangement, and it is not necessarily a definable, physical space; and just like a friendship or marriage, no person can have a property title over it. The initial organizers do not remain in control of the arrangement when they are not present. Property implies power over something, and since safe spaces are intended to be as welcoming as possible, uneven power relations run counter to the idea of safe spaces.

This is one of the points on which I think many libertarians get tripped up. In his argument for safe spaces, Cory Massimino calls its organizers “social entrepreneurs,” a term that implies ownership and power over the safe space. It also evokes an image of the “social entrepreneur” as one who seeks one’s own self-interest by filling a perceived need in a social web. I think that, for the safe space organizer, this order of intentions is reversed; the need for a safe space for marginalized people comes first!

Additionally, I think there is a tendency among libertarians to frame poorly the way in which the need for a safe space arises. In Cory’s piece, he lays this groundwork by comparing webs of social relations to the conditions of a capitalist economy. Within a capitalist framework, people’s preferences and values vary, and are prone to change. He believes that this is the same in a social context, where competing values and preferences give rise to “clash and conflict.” While I agree that, in social contexts, people do have competing values, I think these social values are very different than economic ones. An economic value or preference could be something like a preferred car color, or a preferred rate of return on an investment; in either case, these preferences are determined by the individual.

When economic preferences aren’t met, individuals can exit their contract. However, in the case of social norms and expectations, which are formed by many individual’s preferences and the influence of major institutions, the result of not fitting the mold can be as dire as imprisonment or death.

Despite the common misunderstandings outlined above, I think many libertarians are moving in the right direction on this issue. There has been a growing challenge  to the role of “libertarian” bullies, social conservatives, and problematic leaders in our community and advocacy efforts.  I believe these challenges are a sign of change. However, it is not enough to challenge the established order; it is up to each of us to make libertarian circles more welcoming and inclusive spaces for everyone. I think if we maintain this positive direction, we will continue to advance as a movement and develop an increasingly tolerant libertarian community.

This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions. If you’re a student interested in presenting your perspective on this blog, visit our guest submissions page. Like what you read here? You can sign up for a weekly digest of the SFL blog and subscribe for a weekly update on SFL’s events, leadership programs, and resources here.

d79b772af10fa382a7d6bf91850ee50a_400x400Are you a libertarian graduate student interested in policy or academia? If so, the Mercatus Center invites you to consider one of its Graduate Student Programs as your next step in your career in liberty.

For part-time student already pursuing their career, the Frédéric Bastiat Fellowship may be a great fit. The Bastiat Fellowship is awarded to graduate students attending Master’s, Juris Doctoral, and Doctoral programs in a variety of fields including economics, law, political science, and public policy. Bastiat Fellows receive a top stipend of $5,000 a year and attend monthly colloquia on specific issues of public policy. The application deadline is April 1, 2015.

For those pursuing a PhD, consider the Adam Smith Fellowship. Like Bastiat, the Smith Fellowship is awarded to graduate students attending PhD programs in a variety of fields, including economics, philosophy, political science, and sociology. Smith Fellows receive a total award of up to $10,000, including a quarterly stipend and travel and lodging to attend colloquia hosted by the Mercatus Center. The application deadline is March 15, 2015.

For more information, take a look at their website for a full list of their programs, and check out their Facebook page for the latest updates.


NAEB SelfieThat’s right! North American student leaders who have demonstrated incredible commitment to student organizing and who wish to advance SFL’s mission by expanding the libertarian community on the continent can now apply to the North American Executive Board (NAEB)!

SFL’s NAEB oversees the organization’s principal programs in North America. NAEB members are responsible for growing the student movement for liberty: providing resources to students across the continent, organizing regional conference and leadership forums, and helping develop leaders of liberty around the continent.

Board members may gain valuable skills in volunteer management, event planning, communications, programmatic execution, and non-profit operations.  In light of this, only the most proven student leaders will have the opportunity to serve on the board, and as such admission to SFL’s North American Executive Board is highly competitive. Participation on the board should be seen as an opportunity to make a meaningful difference, which carries significant responsibilities. The Executive Board requires a commitment of 10-20 hours per week and involves both collaborative group efforts with leaders thousands of miles away as well as individual work to complete projects and prepare events without heavy supervision.NAEB Promo

Qualifications for the North American Executive Board Include:

  • Must be a university student in the U.S. or Canada during the 2015-2016 academic year
  • Have at least one year of experience running a pro-liberty student group
  • Be able to dedicate 10-20 hours per week
  • Strongly identify with libertarianism and SFL’s mission
  • Ability to manage multiple projects at once
  • Strong self-motivation to complete projects with little oversight
  • Be able to demonstrate strong management ability, professional skills, and competency
  • A passion not only for the ideas of liberty but for organizing and leading to make the world a freer place

If you qualify for the North American Executive Board and want to apply, see application requirements and additional information at studentsforliberty.org/naeb/


If we had a nickel for every time we heard “SFL believes” this or “SFL doesn’t like” that, we’d be richer than the cronies on K Street. The truth of the matter, however, is that Students For Liberty is a big-tent libertarian organization consisting of hundreds of leaders across the globe with a multitude of opinions — none of which singlehandedly speaks for the organization as a whole. That’s why, starting today, we’re introducing a disclaimer at the end of every opinion blog post by our student leaders or staff:

This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions. If you’re a student interested in presenting your perspective on this blog, visit our guest submissions page.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, SFL is legally prohibited from endorsing political candidates or engaging in lobbying for specific legislation. However, that does not mean that SFL is anti-politics. To the contrary, we maintain an active blog precisely for student leaders to discuss and debate the big questions of politics, policy, and philosophy.

Is there hope for a libertarian tomorrow? If so, will voting get us there? What about single-issue advocacy? Or, is innovation and entrepreneurship a greater liberator than politics ever will be? All of these questions and more are up for debate on our website, and we encourage our blog team, guest authors, and commenters to represent a variety of perspectives.  We will show no preference to any perspective — left or right, thick or thin, humanitarian or brutalist. Libertarianism is a label for all of us to embrace and challenge.

As mentioned in our disclaimer, if you are interested in presenting a different perspective than what is presented on the blog, either through a rebuttal or piece of your own, please send your submissions on our blog information page. To maintain the quality of our blog, SFL reserves the right to discard pieces we deem does not meet our content standards. However, no opinion in favor of limiting government and freer markets is not welcome to grace our website. So, let’s keep the discussion flowing!

Sincerely & For Liberty,
Casey Given, Director of Communications
Suzanne Schaefer, Blog Team Manager