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The Politics of Date Auctions

When I saw the sign in the Howard Gittis Student Center announcing the auctioning off of students for charity, I was immediately uneasy. My eyes automatically centered in on the word “auctioning,” a word uncomfortably tied to America’s history of slave trade, and just in general a demoralization of human dignity. At a school with such diversity, no less, I was surprised that “date auctioning” was still an acceptable way to collect revenue.

In general, these charity auctions have been met with surprisingly little backlash. So many organizations consider it an appropriate way of raising funds (even Betty White auctioned herself off to benefit Morris Animal Foundation). But let’s think about the implications of selling people, even if just for a fun charity event.

The first issue that must come to mind is that of the easily seen association with the nation's shameful history of slave trade. This is a serious implication, especially at such a diverse school as ours. It is insensitive and inappropriate to so nonchalantly promote the sale of human beings, even for a harmless charity function. I’m sure the group responsible had no intentions of offending any fellow students, but we as a student body have to be conscious and respectful of the history of racial tension in this country.

Another issue I have with the practice of auctioning people, particularly date auctions, is the possible assumption of ownership and entitlement of the person being “bought.” Date rape has become an increasingly prevalent issue on college campuses, and it seems conflicting - with increasing awareness and disapproval - that we should be allowing people (young women, in particular) to be bought and sold for dates. Allowing a person to be bought for a date gives the buyer a sense of entitlement. The buyer is paying for this person’s time. This comes with a sense of control and power over the commodity. This clearly creates unfavorable circumstances for the person being bought and could invite a hazardous situation. The organization responsible cannot possibly protect the volunteers of the auction unless the dates (or whatever other services were offered) were supervised, and I assume this is not usually the case.

Many schools, such as Texas A&M University, have released official statements prohibiting date auctions. The concerns above are liabilities for the schools and the organizations involved in any such events. So far, Temple University has issued no policy banning, or even regulating, date auctions. So, despite obvious racial insensitivity, gender insensitivity, and general personal safety concerns, date auctions remain an apparently perfectly acceptable way of collecting revenue for any organizations at Temple.

Jordan is health and fitness writer for Her Campus and a sophomore at Temple University studying journalism and French. She enjoys reading, writing, photographing, and traveling when she gets the chance. She also has a linkedin, because she hopes to be employed someday: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jordan-gunselman/88/205/44a
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