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Student Freedom of Speech Contest

The United States Constitution provides the foundation for our republic and outlines the structures and powers of the national government. The Bill of Rights explicitly conveys the rights and liberties Americans enjoy. These are mainly expressed in terms of protection from an overzealous government. The First Amendment arguably receives the most attention with protection for citizens in five areas: religion, the press, assembly, lobbying, and possibly the most well-known, respected and revered freedom – the freedom of speech.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
- First Amendment to the US Constitution

What these rights mean in practice has ebbed and flowed over the course of history. With respect to the freedom of speech, for instance, the Supreme Court has at different times permitted the government to limit speech for different reasons.

The meaning of the First Amendment and the protections it provides are still debated today. Can the government compel speech and can schools limit a student’s speech are two recent examples.

The beauty of the First Amendment and many other elements of the Constitution is that the language is both relevant and debatable as time passes. That continues today.

As a public institution, Oakland University supports and promotes freedom of speech for students, faculty and staff.

In support of that, the Center for Civic Engagement in partnership with the Office of the President are pleased to announce the first annual Student Freedom of Speech Contest where students are invited to submit responses that address a question about this Frist Amendment right. The winning submission will receive a $2,000 cash prize. 

This year’s question is: Is freedom of speech a necessity in order to have a healthy democracy?

Similar contests exist elsewhere and are typically limited to essays. But because freedom of expression can take many forms, we invite submissions in various formats. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Essay (1000 word maximum)
  • Video (5 minute maximum)
  • Poem
  • Audio recording (5 minute maximum)
  • Drawing, painting, or some other form of artistic expression

Submissions will be judged by a panel of OU faculty and external experts, using a rubric that has five criteria where each is scored on a scale of 1-10:

  • The effectiveness in addressing the prompt
  • The use examples to support the claims made in the submission
  • The use of unique and/or personal insights
  • The use of a genuine tone and approach specific to the individual student
  • Originality

Any full-time OU student is eligible to participate.

Submissions are due by Monday, April 1 and must be submitted via this Google Form.

For more information on the Student Freedom of Speech Contest, email Dave Dulio at [email protected].

Political Science

Varner Hall, Room 418
371 Varner Drive
Rochester, MI 48309-4482
(location map)
(248) 370-2352