BBT Objectivism
BBT Objectivism

The University of Texas at Austin

Freedom of Speech Essay Contest

Spring 2016

First Prize: $1500
Second Prize: $1000
Third Prize: $700

Deadline: Monday, February 22nd, 2016


Choose between questions on Freedom of Academic Speech and Freedom of Religious Expression

Academic Speech

Who speaks on campus and what speakers say – in the classroom, in the quad, in a commencement address – have been issues of heated dispute in the past few years. Do you think that universities should enforce speech codes? Or that potential guest speakers should sometimes be excluded on the basis of the content or offensiveness (at least to some) of their views? In explaining and defending your position, address the strongest case you can make for the opposing side. Examine the purpose that such restrictions would serve and the criteria that they should impose – and argue for why these do or do not justify such restrictions.

Religious Expression

The First Amendment assures the free exercise of religion; does that extend the range of expressive freedom that a religious person may engage in? When a religiously motivated musician or photographer (arguably, forms of creative expression) refuses to sell his services to members of legally protected classes (such as blacks or gays), for example, should he be legally free to do so? Whereas the not-religiously motivated musician or photographer would not be? Note: The question concerns legal freedom, not moral propriety; “legally protected classes” refers to specific groups legally designated by anti-discrimination laws.



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


  • Essays must be between 1400-2500 words in length.
  • Essays must be original, unpublished work of one student; only one essay per student may be submitted.
  • Essays must identity the question that you are answering and 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 but no identifying references, such as your name or professors’ names, should appear in your essay.


***No faxed or e-mailed entries will be accepted***

Entries may be either hand delivered or mailed. Provide four stapled copies of your essay, along with a completed and signed Entry Form. Download entry form here: 

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 Clair LaVaye 

Note: WAG 316 is only open Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm

Mailed essays must be postmarked by 5 p.m. on Monday, February 22nd, 2016.

Hand-delivered essays must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Monday, February 22nd 2016.

Please note that no materials will be returned.

Questions? Contact Clair LaVaye at


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