The Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy looking for nominations

Why would you say something so controversial yet so brave?

Photo Courtesy of SFU

Written by: Paige Riding, News Writer

The Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy is looking for nominations until February 15, 2020. This prize may be awarded to any individual in any academic field whose potentially controversial work positively affects Simon Fraser University or academia while meeting certain ethical criteria.

According to SFU’s website, “the Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy was established at Simon Fraser University in 1993 to honour and encourage work that provokes and/or contributes to the understanding of controversy.”

Associate Director of Communications and Marketing Rosetta Cannata explained in an email to The Peak how a nominee is chosen for the award.

“To win, the work must be more than simply controversial. It should present new ways of looking at the world, be daring and creative, decidedly unconventional and distinctly untraditional. In short, the Sterling Prize celebrates work that challenges complacency,” Cannata wrote.

Past winners included Layla Cameron for her research and activism against fat discrimination in 2018, Cherry Smiley in 2014 for her feminist work to abolish prostitution and her anti-violence work against Indigenous women and girls, and Rick Routledge and Alexandra Morton for their work documenting threats to British Columbia’s wild salmon from coastal fish farms back in 2012.

The most recent winner of the award, Steven Pinker, is an experimental psychology professor and author. He received the award in 2019 for his book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

During his lecture following the presentation of the award, Pinker argued not only that “some of us are more controversial than others” but also that “controversy can be exaggerated because academia is becoming more politically polarized [ . . . ] and that empirical hypotheses are easily confused with moral convictions.”

The namesakes of the award, Ted and Nora Sterling, impacted others through their own pioneering acts. Nora helped to establish community-based mental health programs in the United States. She then moved to Vancouver and helped pioneer the first folk-art store as well as New-Small & Sterling Glass Studio in Granville Island.

Ted fled from Austria in 1940 to the United States with his family. After enlisting in World War II, Sterling turned to focus on his education. After receiving his doctorate, Ted then established SFU’s computing science department, serving as its chair. He understood the controversy associated with potentially compromising one’s privacy through computing technology and warned those around him. 

If you know someone who likes stirring the pot of academia or society in the best way, nominate them before February 15. More information on the prize and how to nominate someone can be found on the Sterling Prize website