Academics - Wed, Oct. 4, 2017

Matchup to pit Wiley students against inmates of  Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville and shine light on higher ed in prisons

On October 6, two Great Debaters will travel to Huntsville, Texas, to participate in an exhibition debate against two inmates of the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville (HV).

Wiley students set to take part in the debate are senior mass communications major Andre Earls and freshman Rahmane Dixon, who is also a mass communications major. 

Earls, a native a Norwalk, Connecticut, is a four-year member of The Great Debaters whose accomplishments include qualifying for the 2017 National Forensics Association National Championship Tournament. 

Dixon is originally from Huntsville, Texas, but her family eventually moved to Richardson, Texas.  As a high school competitor, she was a member of the speech and debate team at Foster High School. She was an active competitor for four years and served as debate captain for two years. She participated in Lincoln-Douglass debate, Public Forum debate, Extemporaneous Speaking, and Original Oratory.           

The opposition will be debated by David and Craig, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDJC) does not allow the release of last names.

David and Craig are part of a college program within the prison through Lee College of Baytown, Texas; both are business majors earning degrees to bolster their marketable skills to transition from prison, reenter society, and enter the workforce.  The college program's debate team is an effort to build their critical thinking and public speaking skills.

Wiley College will soon launch its own postsecondary degree program in three correctional facilities in Louisiana as part of the Second Chance Pell Grant Pilot Program of the U.S. Department of Education. Wiley is one of 67 colleges and universities that will provide postsecondary education to nearly 12,000 students in more than 100 state and federal prisons nationwide.

 "Both of our schools are focused on preparing prisoners for reentry into society and building critical thinking and communication skills.  This debate seemed like a natural matchup, and we are excited for the event," said Chris Medina, Director of Forensics at Wiley College.

Lee College debate Coach, Adam Key noted, "I started the debate team in Fall 2015 with a handful of students; in spring 2016, we expanded the team."  Key said his debate team and the Lee College program have seen great success, reducing recidivism rates to between 5 percent and 10 percent.  A Bureau of Justice statistic lists a 67 percent national recidivism rate.

The two teams will face off in an International Public Debate Association style debate.  In this form of debate the topic will be chosen thirty minutes before the debate. 

Because the debate will be taking place at Huntsville Unit, the public will not be allowed to attend; however,  the debate will be recorded and posted to YouTube. It will not be a live event.  Wiley College will post a link to the recorded debate on its Facebook and Twitter pages after the Friday night event.