Paterno Fellows essay contest on ethical values open to students

November 16, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Any Penn State undergraduate student interested in exploring and writing about ethical values and intercultural issues can enter the fifth annual Collegiate Laws of Life Essay Contest, sponsored by the Paterno Fellows Program and the College of the Liberal Arts.

The contest is open to all full-time baccalaureate students who are enrolled at any Penn State campus for the fall 2017 semester. Essays should be no longer than 800 words and will be judged on originality, relevance and creativity.

Participating students must submit their essays on one of the following prompts by Dec. 18.

1. “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.” — Frederick Douglass

With the recent resurgence in white supremacist demonstrations across the country, do public higher education institutions have a responsibility to accommodate speakers and speech that affects student populations? What exactly constitutes the “suppression of free speech”?

2. “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” — John Muir

In this age, when many people are becoming increasingly disconnected from the natural environment, what is the role of nature in society and everyday life?

3. “There go my people. I must follow them for I am their leader.” Apocryphal, attributed to Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin (French revolutionary)

While many people bemoan the decline of bipartisanship and civility in government, many also resent the “mainstream establishment” that has allowed centrist politicians to be elected and re-elected in partisan primaries. As voters and citizens, how should we expect politicians to balance electoral pressure and the long-term needs of our society?

4. Do you find a disconnect between what you think the role a university should be and what it is in reality?

Winners will receive $500 for first place, $400 for second place, and $300 for third place. All winners will be acknowledged at the annual Paterno Fellows Recognition Ceremony on Jan. 24, 2018. Winning essays will be published on the College of the Liberal Arts blog.

Submissions can be uploaded at

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Last Updated November 16, 2017