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“This House Would Light a Quaker Match”

By Patrick Ross ’15
Adapted from Daily Gazette, Sept. 8, 2011


In their second straight victory over the Peaslee Debate Society, President Chopp and Dean Braun convinced the audience to “light a Quaker match.”

Members of Swarthmore’s Amos J. Peaslee Debate Society faced off against President Rebecca Chopp and Dean of Students Elizabeth Braun in early September for their second annual public debate. The proposition was “This house would light a Quaker match” or “Should Swarthmore students marry one another?” Chopp and Braun argued for the Quaker Matchbox; Debate Society members Richard Peck ’12 and David Mok-Lamme ’14 argued against the proposition.

Chopp stated that Matchbox couples (defined as two married Swarthmore alums) donate greater amounts to the College on a more consistent basis. Peck and Mok-Lamme responded that Swarthmore grads are more preoccupied with saving the world than making money, and few Swatties pursue lucrative careers. By encouraging the courtship of non-Swatties with “real jobs,” Swarthmore would receive more donations, they argued.

Chopp, lightning-quick, pivoted. “Successful marriages depend on sharing common values and the couple being able to negotiate peacefully the settlement of disputes,” she said. Peck contended that sharing values would become tiresome. Marrying someone with different values might help Swatties better understand the world.

From there, it was Dean Braun’s show. Braun asked Swatties to consider the environmental impact of the Quaker Matchbox. She argued that it is “good for sustainability because it results in a reduction in paper with each couple only getting one copy of the Bulletin, only one of any College mailing, and, of course, a reduction in our carbon footprint by creating a built-in carpool to any alumni event.”

Peck tried a different tactic. Quaker Matchbox marriages might marginally improve the environment, but didn’t Swatties deserve to marry attractive individuals, and, if so, were the president and dean aware of how rare attractive people are on campus? Chopp responded with the put-down of the night, inquiring whether a non-Swattie would even want to marry Richard Peck.

Said Peck: “I don’t really have a problem with Swatties marrying each other. But I do think two Swatties running a household together could be a bit too intense.” Indeed, Peck provided a chilling hypothetical:

“A kid growing up with two Swattie parents would have it rough. Imagine if he asked for something from Abercrombie. The response would be something like… ‘No, Athanasius. We are non-conformists in this house. Now pack up your didgeridoo because you have a lesson in a half hour. After that, you have cross-country unicycling practice. But don’t worry, then you get some scheduled free time … during which you will read Joyce, and only Joyce.”

As the debate concluded, Peaslee President Linnet Davis-Stermitz ’12 asked audience members to indicate which team they felt had won. A quick vote resulted in the second straight victory for Chopp and Braun in the now-annual event.

“Dean Braun and I are humbled by this victory,” said Chopp afterward, “but since neither of us had the opportunity to attend Swarthmore, the real victory goes to the students who may marry a Swarthmore alum someday—even one they may not know currently—and become a Quaker Matchbox couple dedicated to improving the world while having a satisfying marriage.”

Peck characterized the outcome differently. “Although we might not have done the best debating, President Chopp did tell me, ‘Richard, I will go to the Outback Steakhouse with you….’ So I would call the debate a win.”

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