Sophie Brutsaert Wins New York Times Contest

Lucas Bort, Reinaldo Colon, Michael Bratslavsky

Staff Writers

Who would have thought that today’s #MeToo movement could be compared to the Stanford Prison Experiment from 1971. Well, Jamesville-DeWitt High School sophomore Sofie Brutsaert compared these two prominent issues in a New York Times “Making Connections” writing contest and won runner-up for her essay.

Out of 1,200 entries, Brutsaert’s essay placed in the top 20. “I was happy and I was proud,” said Brutsaert when she found out about her results. The essay only took her 30 minutes to write.  English teacher Matthew Phillips was surprised when he learned Brutsaert had placed, as he only recommended the contest, it was not a class assignment. He didn’t even know that Brutsaert had submitted. “When she won, it was a total surprise to me and I was really floored because she was a tenth grader,” said Mr. Phillips and many of the winners are upperclassmen.

Brutsaert got the idea for her essay from a topic she learned about in Psychology. The Stanford Prison Experiment was a project to see how people would behave when put in the role of a prisoner or a guard. Their findings showed that prisoners became more accepting of abuse as time went on. Brutsaert related this to sexual assault by saying that when women are placed in certain roles and forced to keep quiet, over time they will be treated worse and will be placed in to worse situations. It also shows that the people that have more power, like the guards during the experiment, will make punishments worse the more the prisoners or victims act up.

After learning about the experiment in class, she decided to watch a movie made about the project outside of school to learn further about the issue. “It was really interesting, and I thought it would make a great topic,” said Brutsaert. 

Brutsaert said there was no point in not sending in the paper so she submitted it for fun. This was not the first time Brutsaert had submitted to a writing contest. She had entered papers in a few other contests but this was the first one she won an award in. She said that she did not run into any big struggles except thinking of a topic to write about but once the idea of the prison experiment came to mind, the rest of the work was fairly easy.  

Surprisingly, not many of Brusaert’s friends knew about her writing skill, or that she submits to large competitions. Sophomore Eva Schooler has been friends with Brutsaert since seventh grade but was not aware that Brutsaert had a skill for writing and did this. However, some of her friends knew that she did write. “I knew she was interested in writing, but I didn’t know what level of interest she had,” said sophomore Eva Wisniewski.