The Plain Dealer Writing Contest is sponsored by the English department as a way of recognizing good expository writing as an aspect of student achievement. The contest is made possible by an endowment provided by the Cleveland Plain Dealer and gifts from English faculty members. Award entries are evaluated by a committee of two English professors and two Plain Dealer reporters. Entries are evaluated each year in March, and awards are given at the English department's annual Recognition Reception at the end of April.
Cash awards of $200 are given for essays written as part of course work in four categories:
(1) Freshman English: For a student essay written in ENG 101 or 102, nominated by the instructor of the course.
(2) Undergraduate Essay: For a student essay written in 200-level or baccalaureate-level English course, nominated by the instructor.
(3) WAC Essay: For a student essay written in a Writing Across the Curriculum course, nominated by the instructor.
(4) Graduate Essay: For a student essay written in an English graduate course, nominated by the instructor.
In Fall quarter, 1982, under the leadership of Professor John Gerlach, several English professors contributed money that would allow the department to award cash prizes for good student essays. The College of Arts and Sciences matched the English professors' contributions, allowing the writing contest to begin with an account of about $750.
Then, in Winter, 1983, the Cleveland Plain Dealer agreed to give the University $10,000 over three years, to create an endowment from which prize money would be awarded for student essays of high quality.