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The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

City College hosts Outstanding Essay Contest


by Kasina Vaewsorn | Staff Writer | [email protected]

The English Department’s 10th annual Outstanding Essay Contest invites students to address hate speech on college campuses and to look into how bias manifests itself in other subtle ways.

City College students who are currently enrolled can submit an 800–1,500 word essay on this theme and submit their essays by midnight April 11. There are cash prizes, funded by the Sierra Health Foundation, for the top three finalists that range from $200 to $500.

Two prompts about hate speech contain questions that allow students to explore the topic in all its complexity, according to City College Professor and English Department Chair Maureen Dana. The prompt references an article by sociologist Laura Beth Nielsen titled, “The Case for Restricting Hate Speech” that students can cite as a source in their essay.

Dana said that the racial graffiti incident on campus last semester inspired the theme for this year’s essay contest. Members of the English department make up the committee and will judge the contest, according to Dana, and when deciding on the prompt the committee thinks about current issues that students may want to write about.

“We’re really kind of just thinking about what would be—you know, what’s timely, what’s of interest to the community, what gives students enough choice that they don’t have to feel pigeonholed into one particular type of response,” Dana said.

Committee member and English Professor Ann Lewis strongly encourages her students to enter and tells them that they can’t win if they don’t enter.

Although the submission process is anonymous, Lewis makes it clear to students that because she judges the contest, they cannot ask her for help, nor discuss the prompt with her. Nonetheless, she really hopes that students enter the contest.

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According to Dana, the general qualities the committee looks for in winning essays are a clear connection of ideas and evidence and a decent command of sentence conventions. Over the years different kinds of essays have won.

“In terms of what it is that makes that winning essay, that really varies,” said Dana. “We have some essays where it’s been very heavily researched and pulling in a lot of different sources, and those seemed very strong. Then we have others that blend in a lot of personal experiences and reflection, and that is what works that year.”

Both Lewis and Dana expressed that they would like to see submissions from a more diverse group of students and emphasized how much students can gain from this experience.

“Affirmations that they are good writers is No. 1 because writing and self-esteem don’t always go hand in hand,” said Lewis. “And it’s really good when they transfer to say, ‘By the way, I got second place or first place in Sacramento City College’s Outstanding Essay Contest.’”

Finalists will be announced in May, at an awards ceremony, where there will be food, speeches, and Dana will read excerpts from winning essays. The English department dean and the essay contest committee will hand out certificates and prizes to the winners, Dana said. Students will also have a chance to mingle and speak with committee members, some of whom are published writers.

“We try and go talk to the winners and the non-winners, thank them for coming and say, ‘Well, do it again next year if you’re still here. Now you’ve got experience,’” Lewis said.

Students can find flyers with the prompt information and Nielsen’s article in the Language and Literature Division office and the Writing Center. Essays must be submitted by email to Dana at [email protected] April 11 at midnight. Email Dana with any questions.

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