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Don't be this guy.

Alright, ladies and gents. If you’re still on the fence, now is the moment of truth. Registration for the Fifth Annual International Students For Liberty Conference closes TODAY.

You don’t want to miss this opportunity to see Peter Thiel, John Stossel, Marty Zupan, and many other amazing speakers. There will be breakout sessions over philosophy, economics, student organizing, professional development, and many other engaging topics. You’ll have the opportunity to network with hundreds of fellow students, alumni, and liberty advocates from all over the world at the exhibitor hall and evening socials.

Register online today, before it’s too late!

SoLib (Society for Individual Liberty) is an independent organization created by a group of recent graduates who are determined to further the cause of freedom. SoLib promotes the principles of liberty and private property in Romania through education and activism. One of SoLib’s major projects is Economy Works, an online educational tool targeted at high school students. Economy Works strives to complement public education and promote ideas that aren’t given attention in the official curriculum.

For example, in 2011 Economy Works students were introduced to the concepts of free markets, limited state intervention, and globalisation as a source of progress. The focus of 2012’s curriculum will be the causes of the financial crisis. Materials – ranging from articles and excerpts of economic treaties to short videos, audio books, documentaries and comic books – are provided to accompany each of Economy Work’s three modules. For each of the modules, participants have to write a short essay that demonstrates critical thinking and a deep understanding of the module’s issues. Authors of the winning papers are invited to a conference in Bucharest where they present their essays in English. The two grand winners receive scholarships to attend a high school seminar organized by the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). If you want to learn more about the project check out the Economy Works website or email Andreea Martinovici.

The recent graduates behind SoLib have developed a great initiative to reach out to high school students in Romania. Attending a FEE seminar is a wonderful opportunity for the winners of the Economy Works competition. Whether you are just developing an interest in the ideas of liberty or a seasoned expert, FEE seminars are a great and stimulating place to challenge your ideas and share ideas with others. Remember that FEE seminars are not just for high school students; FEE offers a variety of seminars for college students as well. Apply for a FEE seminar now and make the most of your summer!

In December, Pepperdine University, a Church-of-Christ school, denied official recognition to a gay-straight alliance for the fourth time.  Recognition would have allowed the group, Reach OUT, to meet in classrooms, advertise on campus, hold events, and utilize funds from the student activities fee collected from students every semester.

Campus Coordinator Alex Cooper, co-president of Reach OUT

Though the decision probably doesn’t surprise most people, Reach OUT explicitly wrote in its constitution that it doesn’t encourage sexual activity.  The group primarily aims to provide the campus’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning student population with community and support, as well as sponsor dialogue on LGBTQ issues.  It is meant to be a place where everyone—from the celibate gay students who believe homosexuality is wrong to the annual pride parade participants—feel safe and respected.

After we learned about the decision, Lindsay Jakows and I created a petition on Change.org asking Pepperdine to reconsider its decision.  As co-presidents of Reach OUT, we knew that the only way to get Pepperdine to change its mind was to show them that the creation of this group would not alienate their supporters.  The petition was instrumental toward proving that students, faculty, alumni, members of the broader community, and even donors support Reach OUT’s mission.

I advertised the petition through several channels, including libertarian groups. While the feedback I received was mostly positive, I often found myself facing opposing arguments among my libertarian peers. One of the most frequent negative comments made toward the petition was something like the following “Like-It-or-Leave” argument:

“Pepperdine is a private, religious university, and it’s their right to decide whether or not to accept a gay student organization.  What are gay students doing at Pepperdine in the first place?  If they don’t like it, then maybe they should just leave.”

This strikes me as a bizarre argument from the outset.  It seems to imply that whenever you don’t like the way things are done in a private institution, you ought to just leave.  What organization would survive the mass exodus if we all lived by that principle?

I should start by noting that the petition is not an attempt to force Pepperdine, by the arm of the state, to recognize Reach OUT.  I am not challenging the university’s right to recognize any group they choose. But to say that when we disagree with an act of a private institution our response should be to leave or stop complaining is just absurd.

Pepperdine University

Gay students come to Pepperdine for a number of reasons.  When I came, I was still a Pentecostal Christian (and a conservative!) actively seeking resources to change my sexuality, so Pepperdine’s stance was no problem for me.  Not all gay students even realize that they are gay until they’re already well into college.  College is meant to be a place where students grow and learn about themselves, so the fact that students change should come as no surprise.

At some point, however, those of us who formed Reach OUT realized that we were gay, that we weren’t going to change, and that there are many out there who are hurting over this issue.  At Pepperdine especially—where students presuming the sanction of the university flippantly make remarks about how disgusting gays are and where LGBTQ students in particular struggle tirelessly to reconcile faith with their sexuality—a group like Reach OUT is critical.

Now knowing how important Reach OUT is for a national university like Pepperdine, should I just leave the school, no matter how much I love attending it besides? Ultimately, I don’t find the “Like-It-or-Leave” argument compelling, and it surprises me that so many defer to it in criticizing Reach OUT’s efforts.

When I ask my dissenters to clarify their position, however, they often deviate from “Like-It-or-Leave” and instead turn to what I shall call the “Lost Cause” argument:

“Pepperdine is a private Christian university, and its policies, which are based on traditional religious tenets, are not going to change.  Your efforts there are useless, and you would be better off leaving unless there is some outweighing good to keep you there.”

This argument is substantively different from the “Like-It-or-Leave” argument.  Whereas one seems to endorse the view that one should leave any organization one disagrees with, the “Lost Cause” argument makes the much more reasonable point that, if an institution is unyielding with regard to an especially important policy, one ought to leave that institution.

While I agree with that point, I disagree that this applies at Pepperdine.  Our Reach OUT petition has shown me that a huge portion of Pepperdine’s population supports Reach OUT and agrees that we are not inconsistent with Pepperdine’s principles.

And, indeed, it is peculiar that the university thinks we are against its principles.  As I’ve said, Reach OUT does not encourage sexual relationships.  The university, however, thinks that this is too “neutral” a stance.  They want us to explicitly condemn homosexuality.

This standard is not applied to any other student group, mind you.  Were someone to ask Chelsea Krafve, the president of our Pepperdine Libertarians, what the official stance of the Pepperdine Libertarians is toward homosexuality, she would probably respond, “The Pepperdine Libertarians do not take a stance on the morality of homosexuality, but we believe the following about gay rights…”  I’m sure she would be incensed to learn that her response is forbidden and that the group, by virtue of being recognized as a student organization, must therefore condemn homosexuality.

At any rate, as we spread our petition and the support of students, alumni, faculty, and community members rains in, I hope to quell Pepperdine’s concerns about extending equality toward LGBTQ students.  They have already taken some steps over the last year to address the needs of LGBTQ students, and though their work falls far from fully addressing those needs, it indicates at least the desire to do more.

Pepperdine is not a lost cause, and I believe that in time even our administrators will realize the harm their discriminatory policies are doing to students, prompting them to take steps toward making Pepperdine a truly free academy.

Check out the media coverage Alex and Pepperdine Reach OUT has received on The AdvocateCampus Progress, CBS Los Angeles, Diverse, ForbesGLAADHuffington Post (twice!), LA WeeklyPepperdine Graphic, Perez Hilton, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) is accepting applications for its summer 2012 academic internship programs held in Washington, DC. TFAS seeks to create a brighter, more prosperous future by preparing young people for leadership by teaching them the ideas of freedom and a free-market economy.

The programs include an internship placement, courses for credit from Georgetown University, housing in furnished on-campus apartments, site briefings, professional development seminars, and social activities.

Programs are offered in the following areas of study:
•Public Policy & Economics
•International Affairs & Economics
•Corporate Business & Government Affairs
•Journalism, Communications & Public Relations
•Community Service & Nonprofit Sector

Further program details and an online application may be found at www.DCInternships.org.

Applicants are encouraged to apply by the priority deadline of February 7, 2012 to receive priority scholarship consideration and internship placement.

Questions may be directed to Mary Stankus at mstankus@tfas.org or 202.986.0384.

One of the highlights of the International Students For Liberty Conference is the Annual Awards Presentation.  In 2009, Students For Liberty began to recognize outstanding students and student groups that have distinguished themselves in the battle for liberty on campus. That tradition has continued with the awards becoming more competitive every year as more and more students demonstrate their outstanding accomplishments for liberty.  Award recipients are chosen based on their hard work, organizational skills, value creation, innovation, and entrepreneurship. You can read about all the finalists for Student of the Year, Event of the Year, and Student Group of the Year here, and be sure to vote for your favorites! You can vote once daily.

Be sure to cast your votes by Tuesday, February 7. This year’s award winners will be announced on Friday, February 17, the opening day of the Fifth Annual International Students For Liberty Conference. If you haven’t registered for the Conference yet, be sure to register by tomorrow, February 3!