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Thursday, October 30, 2003

MAHE Praises SU's Prison Philosophy Discussion Program

SALISBURY, MD---The Maryland Association For Higher Education recently ranked Salisbury University’s Eastern Correctional Institution (ECI) Book Discussion Program as one of the best in higher education, bestowing it with a 2003 Distinguished Honor Award.

Hosted by SU’s Philosophy Club, the program has received accolades throughout the state. The Baltimore Sun calls it “one of the bolder town-gown ventures a college has ever tried.”

Founded by Dr. James Hatley of the Philosophy Department, the program had humble beginnings. Hatley invited a colleague, Dr. Drew Leder of Loyola College, to speak to students about his experience discussion philosophy with inmates.

Under the tutelage of Hatley and SU alumnus Patrick Karsnitz and with the cooperation of Dr. Francis Kane and Pauline Gehnrich of SU’s Institution for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement, SU students inspired by Leder’s work partnered with education staff at nearby ECI to form a discussion group.

During the program’s second year last spring, inmates enrolled in the program met with 20 SU students, divided into groups of four, for two hours each week at the state prison in Somerset County to discuss the works of philosophers from Pluto, Shakespeare and Nietzsche to Frederick Douglas, W.E.B. DuBois and Gandhi. While students received no course credit for the program, both they and the inmates gained something from their experiences.

 “The ECI program provides an opportunity for very different people with very different backgrounds to come together to learn from one another,” said Karsnitz. “A volunteer in one of these discussion groups has the chance to come into contact with people who have lived drastically different lives than a typical college student.”

“There are often assumptions about who the inmates are, what they can do and what it’s all about to be in a prison,” Hatley said. “The students have really learned a lot from sharing a community of learning with people from backgrounds different than theirs.”

For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at www.salisbury.edu.


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