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Middlebury Senior Wins Ethics Prize

December 19, 2017

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Middlebury College senior Eleanor Eagan of Charlotte, Vt., has been named a national winner of the 2017 Elie Wiesel Foundation Prize in Ethics for her essay titled “Mass Incarceration and Poverty: The Morality of the American Criminal Justice System.”

Eleanor Eagan '18 is majoring in international politics and economics.

The foundation’s mission is to combat indifference, intolerance and injustice through international dialogue and youth-focused programs that promote acceptance, understanding and equality. It was established in 1986 by the acclaimed political activist, author, and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and his wife, Marion.

Eagan, an international politics and economics major, entered a paper that was the culmination of her independent research and coursework for the Middlebury course “Privilege and Poverty: The Ethics of Economic Inequality,” taught by Professor of Religion James Calvin Davis.   

The essay “seeks to apply moral, philosophical frameworks to institutions and outcomes in the American criminal justice system,” said Eagan. “Although there is a growing consensus about the depravity of certain pieces of this machine, such as the private prison industry, my essay aims to establish the moral bankruptcy of the whole system.”

Currently active on the committee planning the January 2018 Global Affairs Conference sponsored by the Rohatyn Center, Eagan is leaning toward a career in an internationally focused field. Whatever path she takes, Eagan expects that “the themes that I explored in my essay – power, privilege, impartiality, etc. – will figure prominently in my future employment.”

The foundation selected five essays as winners in this year’s competition. And what was Eagan’s reaction when her essay was selected? “I was incredibly honored to receive an award named after a man so widely revered for his reasoned moral leadership.”

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