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Graton Constitutional Essay Contest opens to all undergraduate students

The University of Maine is known to present students with various opportunities to earn scholarships through their writing. In the political science department, the Graton Constitutional Essay is a contest where students of any major aim to write an essay regarding a constitutional topic. This topic is normally revealed in the early spring, with the winner receiving a grand prize of $8,000. The Graton Constitutional Essay Contest was created in 1900 by the late Claude Dewing Graton and has been held annually for many decades. The contest is open to students in all disciplines. 

This year, participants are given four possible questions that they can answer for the essay. The first: “Mindful of any or all of the articles of impeachment brought against President Trump, what would have to be true of his alleged offenses for them to qualify as impeachable?” The second question is, “To what extent, if at all, do the freedom-of-speech protections of the First Amendment, constrain the policies of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter?” The third: “Should the Office of Solicitor General adhere to positions adopted by preceding administrations or is it permissible (or even desirable?) for new administrations to repudiate the legal positions of their predecessors?” And lastly, “Is it constitutionally permissible for a state to challenge another state’s administration of a presidential election?” The variety of topics this year allow students to explore different parts of constitutional law while bringing into question the use of morality and judgment in the interpretation of the Constitution. 

The contest is headed by Timothy Cole, who is the associate dean for academic student services, as well as an associate professor of political science at UMaine. Cole has a scholarly background in political science, and his principal areas of teaching and research interest are in American foreign policy and American constitutional law. He previously served as chair of the political science department at UMaine. 

Throughout the history of the contest, the prize money has changed depending on the year and is largely dependent on funding. Some years, the prize has been $5,000 and other years, such as this one, the prize reached $8,000. The essay contest is a great opportunity for students to showcase their understanding of the Constitution and contribute to the dialogue regarding its interpretation. It also serves to answer topical questions regarding the Constitution, as they become more important in contemporary talks about American politics. Some professors even incorporate the essay contest into their class curriculum, as Professor Robert Ballingal has done in the past with his Constitutional Law class. Students wishing to learn more about the contest can contact Timothy Cole at Submissions can be between 2,000 and 5,000 words and are due by April 9, 2021.

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