Is free speech free? In 500 words or fewer, you can win the prize

Is free speech free? If you can answer that provocative question in 500 words or fewer, you might win the annual Lili Fabilli and Eric Hoffer Essay Prize, which honors brevity alongside brilliance in writing.

The contest is open to all staff, faculty and students at UC Berkeley. The deadline for submission is Dec. 1. The best essay or essays win  $100-$1,500, depending on how many winners are selected.

The prize bears the names of writer-philosopher Eric Hoffer and his friend Lili Fabilli. Hoffer worked as a longshoreman in San Francisco for 20 years before serving as an adjunct professor at Berkeley in the 1960s. Best known for his 1951 book The True Believer, he also wrote nine others and won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1983.

Hoffer endowed the prize in a 1970 letter to the University of California regents. “The sole criteria for the prizes shall be originality of thought and excellence in writing,” he wrote.

Among past subjects for the essay contest have been “What I don’t know,” “In defense of sloth,” “Whose university?” and — last year — “Advice for the new chancellor.”

Learn more about the prize and read the essays of previous winners on the Fabilli-Hoffer Prize website.