Sorority women fill auditorium for recruitment-centered debate

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As groups of women walked into Peeler Auditorium Thursday night wearing greek letters, some said, "Go Panhel!" and joked that they should have brought posters.

Meanwhile, onstage, two teams prepared to debate if the Panhellenic recruitment process at DePauw University objectifies women. The 'government' team argued that the Panhellenic recruitment process objectifies women. The opposition argued that the process does not.

The 'government' team soon began recognizing they might have a hard time convincing the crowd.

Upon taking the stage for an introduction, senior Ronnie Kennedy, president of the DePauw Debate Society joked about the unbalanced gender representation.

"We were worried we weren't going to have enough women," Kennedy said. "Clearly that's not the case."

Of the over 50 audience members, more than 35 were women, many representing the six Panhellenic sororities at DePauw. Throughout the debate, audience members indicated their preference for one side or the other by knocking on their chairs or applauding the debaters, according to parliamentary debate procedure.

Though the crowd allowed both sides to argue, a majority cheered on the opposition (supporting the Panhellenic Council), and they stood at the debate's end to indicate that the opposition won the audience over.

The 'government' team that argued in favor of the resolution, comprised of seniors Kelly Blair, Shelby Beasley and Sam Leis, claimed the Panhellenic recruitment process objectifies women through its use of a ranking system, potential for pre-ranking women prior to the recruitment process, conformity to pre-established stereotypes in each chapter and inhibited ability of potential new members to suicide bid (selecting only one preferred chapter with which an individual may be matched, rather than ranking two).

In an attempt to gain common ground with the heavily Panhellenic audience, Blair mentioned her affiliation with Alpha Chi Omega sorority and said that though the process of recruitment leads to a positive end, the means to that arrival can be painful.

"When something is so severe that women are crying in the bathrooms between rounds [of recruitment], something is wrong," Blair said.

Beasley, who went through the recruitment process as a first- year, but rejected a bid, said she has witnessed those tears and feels the ranking system allows for judgment and labeling among women. While many find happiness after going through the process, she said, it is not free of flaws.

"No system, no matter how great the goals are, should be above reproach," Beasley said.

On the opposing side, senior Vincent Guzzetta, first- year Emily Hofferber and President of the Panhellenic Council Libby Warren asserted that ranking systems (including those used by the Council to match members to chapters) are part of life, that rejection does not equate to objectification and that, overall, the recruitment process is a positive one.

In an anecdotal example, after which the crowd laughed and knocked on chairs with enthusiasm, Guzzetta said he was not admitted to the University of Chicago because he did not rank high enough on the school's list.

"They tried to do the best they could to get to know me in a short amount of time," he said. "I wasn't quite weird enough for the University of Chicago."

Warren's argument, another crowd pleaser, received a fair number of chair knocks of approval from the audience, especially when she mentioned the community of support amongst Panhellenic organizations and shared the Council's values. She also mentioned that 84.5 percent of women who went through Panhellenic recruitment this year and received their first choice, which indicated a mutual selection and limited level of disappointment.

Senior Eleanor Axt, who vocalized her approval throughout the debate, said she knocked in support of the opposition throughout the debate.

"I knocked when Vincent [Guzzetta] brought up the University of Chicago rankings and rejection, and when Libby [Warren] said even if you don't end up in your first choice house you can still love where you end up," Axt said. "I admit I really didn't agree with the government side."

After the debate concluded and the audience stood to vote, indicating that they believed the opposition group won, groups of women left Peeler together, running toward their houses through the pouring rain.