The Collegian
Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Libertarians try to come to campus

A University of Richmond political science major is trying to bring another perspective to the university's political organizations through Students for Liberty, a libertarian group.

Senior Danielle Lewis, 26, has been involved in the Libertarian Party for nine years. She said she had been surprised to discover that there were not any third-party representation groups on campus.

"A lot of people became disillusioned with the Republican Party," she said, "but that doesn't mean we have to have a knee-jerk reaction to move to the Democratic Party."

Students for Liberty is a nonprofit educational organization that promotes the libertarian philosophy at colleges and high schools. There are more than 125 chapters throughout all 50 states. Its mission statement rests on three principles: economic freedom to choose how to provide for one's life, intellectual and academic freedom and social freedom to choose how to live one's life.

Lewis said the group would not push a libertarian agenda on people, and that it was extremely nonpartisan. Much like democrats, the group supports social freedoms such as abortion rights and gay marriage, but like republicans, it supports a free-market economy.

The organization hosts regional, national and international conferences for members and will also assist in bringing scholars and activists to speak on campus. James Lark III - professor of systems and information engineering at the University of Virginia, national campus coordinator for the Libertarian Party and member of the Board of Advisors to SFL - has been assisting Lewis in this project, and will help the group to gain access to these speakers and events, she said.

"During the past year I have seen a substantial upturn in interest among college and high school students concerning organizing libertarian groups at their schools," Lark wrote in an e-mail.

But despite some initial interest from about a dozen political science students, including some abroad, Lewis has not yet been able to launch the group. In order to reserve the space for a general interest meeting, the group must first have provisional status from the Student Activities Office. However, Lewis can't complete the provisional status form without at least 10 active members, none of whom can be studying abroad and a faculty advisor.

Max Vest, director of student activities, has agreed to assist in sponsoring SFL's first meeting so that they can gauge the interest level of the general student body and continue with the process of becoming recognized.

She said they would continue to navigate through the school's requirements as best they could to expose the student body to SFL and garner attention to its cause.

Lewis said she transferred to Richmond last year after taking classes at Virginia Commonwealth University and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in order to have a good degree on her record. She said she had been impressed by Richmond's dedication to community involvement, and hoped to get others involved in grassroots movements.

Although she is busy writing her political science honors thesis, studying for the LSAT and caring for her 3-year-old son, Lewis said the group would be worth the time it took to get it started, and had faith that she could get students interested in continuing the organization so it lasted beyond her graduation.

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"I hope to leave something here for them," she said, "an organization that future students could participate in that I feel very strongly about."

Contact reporter Avril Lighty at avril.lighty@richmond.edu

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