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Harvard University’s Award-Winning Debate Team Defeated By NY Prison Inmates

Wed, October 7, 2015 5:20pm EDT by 1 Comment
Harvard Debate Team Loses Prison Inmates
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Well, this is surprising. Just months after winning a national title, Harvard University’s prestigious debate team has fallen to an unlikely team of rivals: A group of inmates at a maximum-security prison in New York. See their inspiring story here!

On top of being one of America’s leading Ivy League institutions, Harvard University also has the distinct honor of housing one of the world’s most prestigious debate teams. They’ve won numerous national titles, not to mention world championships. And yet, even they proved to be no match for New York’s team of prison inmates, who have defied the odds and defeated the Ivy Leaguers in a truly epic showdown. Looks like school if officially in session!

The debate matchup — which was held at Eastern New York Correctional Facility back in September 2015 — reportedly saw three of its talented inmates go head-to-head against three of the university’s undergraduate students in a debate centered around whether or not public schools should be allowed to turn away children whose parents entered the U.S. illegally. Despite arguing for a motion that they firmly disagreed with, the prisoners — Carl Snyder, Dyjuan Tatro and Carlos Polanco — presented their case in favor of a school’s right to turn away students, ultimately winning over the judges and earning an uproar of applause from the audience, the Associate Press reports.

Following the event, the Harvard team — who were also crowned the world debate champions in 2014 — took to Facebook to congratulate their opponents. “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.”

The debate was organized by the Bard Prison Initiative — a program designed to help inmates take courses to receive college degrees. The inmates at the facility have been able to take courses in debate taught by faculty from Bard College, and formed their own club at the prison two years ago. In the years since they’ve gone on to beat teams from the University of Vermont and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, with the latter developing into a rivalry and an annual competition.

While some may be surprised by the inmates win against the Ivy Leaguers, those at Bard who have worked with the prisoners aren’t the least bit surprised. “Students in the prison are held to the exact same standards, levels of rigor and expectation as students on Bard’s main campus,” said Max Kenner, executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative, which operates in six New York prisons. “Those students are serious. They are not condescended to by their faculty. They make the most of every opportunity they have.” Congrats all!

What do you think HollywoodLifers — Are you surprise by the inmates win over Harvard? Share your thoughts below!

— Alyssa Montemurro