8 Oct 2015

Inmates defeat Harvard University’s prestigious debate team

Harvard University’s prestigious debate team has lost to a group of New York prisoners – despite the inmates not being allowed the Internet to study.

Just months after winning a national title, the Ivy League undergraduates were defeated by a team of three men - all jailed for violent crimes.

The showdown took place at the Eastern New York Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison where convicts can take courses taught by faculty from nearby Bard College.

The inmates have formed a popular debate club and last month, they invited Harvard’s team - this year's national debate champions - over for a friendly competition.

The Harvard debate team was crowned world champions in 2014. But the inmates are building a reputation of their own.

‘We might not be as naturally rhetorically gifted, but we work really hard,’ inmate Alex Hall, 31, told the Wall Street Journal.

And despite being challenged to argue a position they strongly disagreed with, the prisoners triumphed.

Against Harvard, they had to argue that public schools should be allowed to turn away students whose parents entered the U.S. illegally.

Three students from Harvard's team responded, and a panel of judges declared the inmates victorious.

The inmates brought up arguments that the Harvard team hadn't considered, the judges said.

Inmates can earn various degrees through the initiative, which is taught primarily by Bard faculty.

About 15 per cent of the all-male inmates at the Eastern New York Correctional Facility in Napanoch are enrolled.

Graduates of the program have continued their studies at Yale and Columbia universities, Kenner said.

While in prison, they learn without the help of the Internet, relying instead on resources provided by the college.

They must submit requests for books and articles they require - which can take weeks for the administrators to approve.

Kenner added: ‘They make the most of every opportunity they have.’


Credit: Khaleda Rahman/DailyMail

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