Prison Inmates Beat Harvard Debate Team

Prison Inmates Beat Harvard Debate TeamPrison Inmates Beat Harvard Debate Team

Harvard’s champion debate team has been put in their place - by a group of New York prison inmates.

The showdown took place at the maximum security Eastern New York Correctional Facility, where prisoners can take courses run by nearby Bard College.

A few years ago inmates formed a debating club which has claimed a number of major scalps including the Military Academy at West Point.

Now they have gone one better and beaten a trio of undergraduates at Harvard, who are the current national debate champions, reports

Against the Ivy Leaguers, who were also the 2014 champions, the prisoners were tasked with defending a position they opposed.

They had to argue that public schools should be allowed to turn away students whose parents entered the US illegally.

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

Max Kenner, executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative, which operates in six New York jails, said he was not surprised.

“Students in the prison are held to the exact same standards, levels of rigor and expectation as students on Bard’s main campus,” he said.

“Those students are serious. They are not condescended to by their faculty.”

The Harvard team was not immediately available for comment, although they did post a comment on their Facebook page.

“There are few teams we are prouder of having lost a debate to than the phenomenally intelligent and articulate team we faced this weekend,” they wrote.

“And we are incredibly thankful to Bard and the Eastern New York Correctional Facility for the work they do and for organizing this event.”

Kenner said: “The fact that we won is nice, but it isn’t the most important thing.”

The prison debating club was set up to help students articulate what they had learned, he said.

Around 15% of inmates at the Eastern New York Correctional Facility take Bard courses, with some graduates continuing their studies at Yale and Columbia universities.