Essay Garners GCC Student Top Honors

Rhonda Parker One of Three Students Recognized at Law Day Event

Batavia, NY- Genesee Community College congratulates student Rhonda Parker, whose essay earned one of the top three prizes in the David A. Garfinkel Essay Contest sponsored by the Historical Society of New York Courts. Parker and the other two winners were recognized at an awards ceremony in the New York Court of Appeals Courtroom on Law Day, May 1, 2014. GCC student Rebecca Woodruff was one of ten students to receive honorable mention.

The Garfinkel Essay contest invites community college students from around the state to submit essays on topics of legal relevance. This year they were charged with addressing the question: “Who Watches the Watchers? Free Speech and Free Press in the Electronic Age.”

Parker, who lives with her husband and three children in Albion, entitled her essay “Safe and Without Sound.” She argued that “Americans need to consider how we can claim to hold paramount individual liberty, and send soldiers to their death to protect freedom, yet stifle that same freedom in the name of national security. The fact is that security without freedom is little more than a prison cell.” She cites the cases against whistleblowers Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden and discusses the Obama Administration’s prolific use of the Espionage Act as a prosecutorial tool. She ends with a quote from Benjamin Franklin: “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”

“I am honored to have won the Garfinkel Essay contest,” she said. She received the SUNY Community College Prize which includes a $1,000 cash award. Lida Ramos Arce of Queensborough Community College in Queens also received $1,000 as the CUNY Community College Prize winner. The $1,500 grand prize went to Zachary Field of Onondaga Community College.

Parker is majoring in Paralegal Studies and Communications and Media Arts with plans to graduate in Fall 2014. “Her paper is provocative, yet nuanced, and rich with relevant historical examples,” said History Professor Charles Scruggs, who encouraged students in his “Rights, Liberties and Justice” class to submit essays in the Garfinkel Contest. “Her acerbic wit, frequently on display in class, is used to good effect in her written work.” The Historical Society provides a link to Parker’s full essay online at:

Professor Scruggs also commended Woodruff on her honorable mention. “Rebecca is also a stellar student whose diligent preparation will serve her well as she advances in the paralegal field. It has been a privilege to work with both of them.”

Gloria and Barry Garfinkel initiated the essay contest in 2008 in memory of their son, David. The competition seeks to draw students with a wide range of interests in law, history, social science and general research writing.

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Editor’s Note:
A photo of the Garfinkel Essay contest top three winners is available here:

Caption: Hon. Jenny Rivera, Associate Judge of the New York Court of Appeals (2nd from left) with Garfinkel Essay Contest winners (from left) Zachary Field from Onondaga Community College, Lida Ramos Arce from Queensborough Community College, and Rhonda Parker from Genesee Community College.