April 19, 2017 | 10 a.m.
By Lauren Pareigat '08, GS'17
The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity Prize in Ethics Essay Contest has been a long-running contest for undergraduate students to engage in philosophical reflection. Bethel senior Micah Latty received first place in the 2016 contest. Earlier this month, Latty was recognized at the foundation’s ceremony.
Latty is a philosophy and computer science (B.A.) double-major, set to graduate this spring. He wrote “Welcoming Silence” for the contest at the end of fall 2015, then a junior.
The contest’s only parameters were for students to write about a moral issue relevant to them. “Wiesel himself did some writing on the topic of silence. Given the events of the last few years, this was the idea that came to me,” Latty says.
His essay centers around the issue of racial tension in America. For Latty, the writing process helped him better clarify and argue his ideas. “I’m now more aware of whether I’m following the pattern I discussed in the essay,” he reflects.
Latty asked Professor of Philosophy Sara Shady to be his faculty sponsor for the contest. She agreed when she heard his topic idea. “Micah's winning essay is the most creative, thought-provoking, and powerful writing in ethics that I've read during my 17 years of teaching philosophy at the undergraduate level,” said Shady. “It is beautifully written and challenges the reader to live more constructively amidst significant social and ideological diversity.”
Shady admits she was surprised to hear Latty had won—not for a lack in quality of his work, but simply due to the steep competition. For one essay in a nationally-recognized contest that has been going on for 26 years, the odds were low due to sheer numbers. But Shady says, “For a Bethel student to win top prize—having competed against entries from Ivy League schools and top research universities—is outstanding.”
According to the foundation’s website, the contest was established in 1989 to encourage college-level students to consider the ethical dimension of education in society and the individual. Read Latty’s essay on the foundation’s website.