FIRE Launches ‘Freedom in Academia’ High School Scholarship Contest

April 30, 2008

FIRE is pleased to announce its first annual "Freedom in Academia" essay scholarship contest for high school students. To advance FIRE’s mission "to educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to rights on our campuses," FIRE is inviting high school students from across the country who will be attending college in the fall of 2009 to enter this contest. The deadline for all entries is November 20, 2008, with the winner announced on December 19, 2008.

Students are asked to familiarize themselves with FIRE’s mission and activities, visit FIRE’s multimedia page, and watch two short FIRE documentaries: FIRE on Campus: An Introduction to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and FIRE in Action: Valdosta State University. Students will see how university administrations at San Francisco State University and Valdosta State University stifled the constitutional rights of their students and how those students fought back.

At San Francisco State University the College Republicans were investigated for incitement, creating a hostile environment and incivility after holding an anti-terrorism rally where they stomped on Hezbollah and Hamas flags. At Valdosta State University student Hayden Barnes was expelled after he publicly criticized Valdosta President Ronald Zaccari’s efforts to build a parking garage on campus by posting a collage on mocking Zaccari.

Students will then be asked to write 700 – 1200 words explaining how the universities in the videos betrayed their purpose as a "marketplace of ideas" and violated the First Amendment freedoms of their students. FIRE is offering $5,000 to the student who writes the winning essay. Second place will receive $2,500. Essays should be submitted via e-mail to or via snail mail to:

Attn: Essay Scholarship Contest
601 Walnut Street, Suite 510
Philadelphia, PA 19106

To view the complete rules and regulations for the contest, please click here.