high school essay contest: Freedom in Academia
- FIRE’s “Freedom in Academia” Essay Contest
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is pleased to announce its first annual “Freedom in
Academia” essay contest. High school students from across the U.S. are invited to write an in-depth essay
explaining why free speech and First Amendment rights are crucial to higher education and how abuses of
these rights harm education.
One first place winner will be awarded a college scholarship of $5,000.
The second place winner will receive a $2,500 college scholarship.
Deadline: November 20, 2008
Winners Announced: December 19, 2008
FIRE’s mission is to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities. These rights
include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience—the
essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity. FIRE’s core mission is to protect the unprotected and to
educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to these rights on our
campuses and about the means to preserve them.
1. Go to FIRE’s website at www.thefire.org and familiarize yourself with FIRE and FIRE’s issues.
2. Click on FIRE’s multimedia button. Watch two short videos about real students who were censored
and punished for speech that is protected by the U.S. Constitution.
Video #1: FIRE on Campus: An Introduction to the Foundation for Individual Rights in
This video serves as an introduction to FIRE, its principles and issues, and its commitment to liberty
on campus. It then turns to FIRE’s case at San Francisco State University, where students endured
a months-long investigation for stomping on Hamas and Hezbollah flags during an anti-terrorism
protest. It also discusses campus speech codes.
Video #2: FIRE in Action: Valdosta State University
This short film highlights FIRE’s fight against Valdosta State University’s (VSU’s) unconstitutional
free speech zone policy and chronicles FIRE’s victory on behalf of VSU student T. Hayden Barnes,
who was expelled for engaging in a peaceful protest.
3. Answer the Essay Question: In 700 – 1200 words, please discuss the videos you have seen and
explain how these universities betrayed the purpose of a university and violated the constitutional
guarantees of free expression. Focus on why such codes and practices are incompatible with higher
education and why free speech is important in our nation’s colleges and universities.
4. Submit your essays to scholarships(at)thefire.org (replace (at) with @). All essays should be submitted to FIRE by
November 20, 2008. Include your name, contact information, school, and school address on the top,
right hand corner of your essay. You may also mail your essay to:
Attn: Essay Scholarship Contest
601 Walnut Street, Suite 510
Philadelphia, PA 19106
FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars,
journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual
rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and rights of conscience at our nation’s
colleges and universities.
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