Department of Philosophy
Department of Philosophy

Freedom of Speech Essay Contest

Fri, March 8, 2019 | Waggener

- 9:00 AM

Spring 2019
Spring 2019



  • First Prize - $1500
  • Second Prize - $1000
  • Third Prize - $700


  • All undergraduate students at The University of Texas at Austin, regardless of their area of study.
  • Students who may have participated in previous years’ versions of this contest are eligible, regardless of whether they won a prize.


  • Essays must be between 1600-2000 words in length.
  • Essays must be original, unpublished work of one student; only one essay per student may be submitted.
  • Essays must identify which question (of the two options) you are answering and must be typed in 12-point font in English, double-spaced, with 1-inch margins and numbered pages.
  • Submissions will be judged anonymously. Identifying information is requested on the accompanying Entry Form (see below), but no identifying references, such as your name or professors’ names, should appear in your essay.

Choose between the following 2 topics

  • Free Speech and Truth - What good is freedom of speech if there are no facts? Ours has been called a post-truth era in which “fake news” rules and there’s no way to evaluate “your facts” versus “my facts.” Explore the ramifications for freedom of speech. In particular, explain whether the value of freedom of speech rests on the idea that no ‘truths’ are knowable, or on the idea that freedom of discussion is the best means to reach truth – or on something else.
  • Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion - The First Amendment explicitly protects both religious freedom and freedom of speech (among other things). Explore the relationship between these two. Are they distinct values, completely independent of one another? Or is their relationship more intimate? What are the differences and similarities in the basic rationale for respecting each of these? In supporting your position, feel free (but not required) to draw on recent controversies, such as bakers and photographers who assert both religious freedom and expressive freedom to resist legal mandates to serve would-be clients. Do such cases shed any light on the relationship between religion and speech?



  • Entries may be either hand delivered or physically mailed. No e-mailed or texted or faxed entries will be accepted
  • Provide four stapled copies of your essay, along with a completed and signed Entry Form.
  • Mailed essays must be postmarked by 9 a.m. on Friday, March 8, 2019.
  • Hand-delivered essays must be submitted by 9 a.m. on Friday, March 8, 2019.

NB: Entries that do not comply with all of the above rules will be excluded.

Mailing Address:

UT Freedom of Speech Essay Contest
Department of Philosophy
University of Texas at Austin
2210 Speedway, Stop C3500
Austin, Texas 78712

Drop Off Locations for Hand Delivery:

Waggener (WAG) 231 – please slide under the door

Waggener (WAG) 316 – Mailbox for Roxy Becker - Note: this office is only open Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm

Please note that no materials will be returned.

Questions? Contact Roxy Becker at

Free Speech - let's talk about it ...

Most recent prize winning essays - 

2018 Essay by Carina Reyes

2018 Essay by Lizzy Tan

2018 Essay by John Gonzales

2017 Essay by Shishir Jessu

2017 Essay by Jessica Hemann


Sponsored by the BB&T Chair for the Study of Objectivism and the Department of Philosophy

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