This House Would Light a Quaker Match

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Members of Swarthmore’s Amos J. Peaslee Debate Society participated Monday night in the second annual public debate against President Rebecca Chopp and Dean of Students Liz Braun. The proposition up for debate was “This house would light a Quaker match”, or, “Should Swarthmore students should marry one another?” President Chopp and Dean Braun argued the affirmative, in support of the Quaker matchbox, while Peaslee members Richard Peck ’12 and David Mok-Lamme ’14 argued against the proposition.

Many of Chopp’s and Braun’s  arguments focused on donations to the college. Chopp stated that Matchbox couples (defined as two married Swarthmore alum) donate greater amounts to the college on a more consistent basis. Peck and Mok-Lamme responded that Swarthmore grads are far more preoccupied with saving the world than making money, and few Swatties end up pursuing lucrative careers. By encouraging the courtship of non-Swatties with “real jobs,” Peck and Mok-Lamme argued, Swarthmore would receive more donations.

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

But Chopp had a ready answer to this one, asking him whether being married to Michele Bachmann would help anyone actually understand anything.

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 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. Maybe Quaker Matchboxes would 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 when she inquired whether a non-Swattie would even want to marry him in the first place.

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 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.

Once the debate concluded, Peaslee President Linnet Davis-Stermitz ’12 asked audience members to indicate which team they felt had won the debate. The voting was over quickly, and  resulted in the second annual victory for President Chopp and Dean Braun.

“Dean Braun and I are humbled by the victory,” said Chopp afterward, “but since neither of us had the opportunity to attend Swarthmore, the real victory goes to the students who have the opportunity to marry a Swarthmore alumnus 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 thought about the outcome differently. “While 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 Monday’s debate a win.”


  1. “Peck contended that sharing values would quickly become tiresome. Marrying someone with other values might help Swatties better understand the world.

    But Chopp had a ready answer to this one, asking him whether being married to Michele Bachmann would help anyone actually understand anything.”

    I love this article haha

  2. “No, Athanasius. We are non-conformists in this house. Now pack up your didgeridoo because you have a lesson in a half hour”

    Best quote ever.

  3. I am SO EXCITED to raise Athanasius, with my socially conscious, equally ugly partner, earning minimum wage, planting trees, and saving the world.

  4. I participated in phonathon last fall, and I will say that there were several forms indicating that a Quaker Matchbox marriage had ended in divorce. Just thought I would throw that out there.

  5. Outback Steakhouse is not the most socially conscious restaurant if Swatties are considering a hot date with Becky Chopp.

  6. My Swattie daughter and her Swattie husband would definitely give Athanasius the opportunity to make his/her own decision about brand names, after having provided unbiased information for him/her to study. Yay for Swattie matches and lovely Quaker weddings.

  7. speaking as approximately 50% of a quaker matchbox, i can say that our household burns with the light of only 100% recycled paper products.

  8. You may not agree with Bachmann’s politics, but taking in many foster children while raising 5 of her own would represent Quaker values. Personally, I would hold that up against anyone’s values. Has President Chopp tried raising children of her own, let alone taking in troubled teens? It is not easy, and deserves respect.

  9. Interesting and quite enjoyable, except for the irrelevant, illogical and unpersuasive Michelle Bachmann insult, which adds nothing to the argument being advanced in the debate. Apart from Swat Closer’s comment regarding the relationship of Quaker values and raising a large number of foster children, assuming Michelle Bachmann is a competent tax lawyer, one could probably learn something from her there also. Tax law is an extremely complicated subject and one that affects all of us profoundly. Must have been a good evening on campus and for students and administration.

  10. To be clear, Michelle Bachmann had a foster care license for seven years, was permitted only around three children at a time, and she took in all of her foster children while they were teenagers, so to say she “raised” twenty-three kids is undoubtedly a gross misrepresentation of the actual situation. Provided them care, sure, and that is an admirable thing in many respects. But mislabeling her experience with foster children as having “raised” so many of them is misleading in the same deliberate manner in which Bachmann spreads so much misinformation. That and her terrible, backwards, hate-filled fear mongering are decidedly un-Quaker, un-Swattie behaviors. President Chopp’s comment was a bit cheap, but definitely not unwarranted!
    I also love the comment from “Hmm”. Several Quaker Matchbox marriages ended in divorce, you say? Well then, clearly all Swattie pairings are destined for failure, because divorce is so uncommon amongst the general population. Oh wait. Ha.

  11. A very enjoyable debate (especially the Athanasius comment) and a good article. Having attended, I must note that Michele Bachmann had been brought up in an earlier context, so President Chopp’s jab was not entirely out of the blue.

    I would have liked to see some reporting about one of the peripheral issues discussed in the debate, that of inbreeding. Some of the participating audience members were West Virginians who had some highly amusing comments on the matter.

  12. There’s a sociological term for this, it’s “educational homogamy.” And while the census reveals incremental growth in the number inter-racial unions and tremendous growth in the number of inter-religious unions, inter-educational (by level and institution) unions are decreasing. Educational credential has become the new meaningful social boundary. It does the work of conferring marital and labor market success the way race and religion once did.
    Swatties marrying Swatties is a consolidation of status within a partnership — Max Weber’s social closure at its finest.

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