The Phi Kappa Literary Society is a debate society at the University of Georgia. We meet every academic Thursday at Phi Kappa Hall on North Campus at 7 p.m.

All with an insatiable appetite for knowledge and oratory are welcome.



Fallacy Friday: Ad hominem

Ad hominem
, Latin for “to the man” or “to the person,” is a personal attack on a person’s individual character instead of addressing the content of their arguments. Ad hominem is used to dismiss one’s argument based on personal differences in morals, character, or style. This fallacy can take many forms, including the previously featured Ad hominem tu quoque, Ad hominem circumstantial in which one’s personal circumstances are used as a basis for judgement, and slanderous or aggressive language, among others. This fallacy can be detrimental to one’s entire argument, as credibility often hinges upon reasonability and logic. Ad hominem is ultimately a deflection that undermines a case without forming any counter-points. As Phi Kappans, we pride ourselves on our ability to handle and respect personal differences due to our dedication to Order and Decorum. Because of our core philosophy focused on these vital principles, Ad hominem is one of the most dangerous fallacies that can be used in our Hall or in any debate a Phi Kappan partakes in.



Phi Kappa president reflects on historic tenure and career

The gallery in Phi Kappa Hall is quiet except for one voice. Sporting a mane of dark curls spilling out over her shoulders, Sister Henry’s usual high pitch is replaced with a harsher tone that lays bare pain. The language of her spoken word poetry is less a vivid reflection than an arsenal of serrated edged knives ready to dissect the raw feelings of some pressing moment of her past. A first-time visitor might conclude that this isn’t her first time. He would be right. Informally sometimes called Mama Kris, the lectern has been her performance space for close to four years and she’s in the middle of one of her last active performances.  

At the end of a long night of elections last fall, Sister Henry’s name appeared for the first time at the top of the list of elected candidates, managing to break a nearly two hundred year precedent. Sister Henry had become the first black woman to preside over the Phi Kappa Literary Society.  

“There aren’t even really words to describe that on my part. Naturally, I feel great about that, but I want to believe I symbolize something but more than anything it makes me proud about how far the society has come even since I joined. Not only am I a black women who is president, but we have so many different faces that are from so many different places at this point that we can’t say the society is all one thing or another thing,” Sister Henry said.

An unabashed feminist and activist, Sister Henry, presides in the highest seat on the rostrum overlooking the Upper Chamber, a room decorated with portraits of distinguished alumni, nearly all white men inducted before integration in 1961. For her sponsor Brother Woodard, her tenure has signaled a paradigm shift.

“When I think of Kris, I think of Thurgood Marshall and his work with the US Justice System and the transformation he created from within and she reminds me of embodying the ideals that people profess and putting them into action,” Brother Woodard said. 

Despite the historic nature of her tenure, her goal was simple – keep the society together. As a member under four different generations of Phi Kappans, she noticed the tendency for siblings to grow apart when membership grew. Teaching traditions to newer members was, to her, an important aspect of presiding.

She also broke tradition. In contrast to previous presidents who gave addresses from the chair, she gave hers from the lectern in an attempt to relate more closely with siblings.

Still, Sister Henry said she experienced her share of challenges, adjusting to being conscious of everyone in a room or dealing with pesky problems of sibling punctuality and decorum. Making decisions on behalf of the half of the society, however, is what she found to be her most difficult and important responsibility. One such decision was weighing stringent enforcement of penalties with decorum violations and providing leeway for siblings. A decision she made in March to little pushback, but it is those type of decisions she felt need to be considered societal level and not a personal one. 

“Things can go awry if you don’t put a lot of reflection into the weight of that,” she said. 


Four year journey in the Hall

  Her time in Phi Kappa began under less tremendous circumstances. Almost four years ago, she received a personal invitation from Sister Jess Melear who had observed her love of discussion in her English class. In that time, she said membership was largely homogenous, but she felt a connection that she wanted to embrace with long-term commitment. Of what she can remember of her petitioning days, the feeling of anxiety was the most common up until the night of her initiation.

 “I didn’t know what to do with myself because you don’t know what goes on deliberations and you don’t know what goes on in closed meetings and you have to wonder what kind of mistakes you’ve made or did I not talk to this person enough. But then I got in and it was really gratifying experience,” she said. 

 Remarking on her early tics, Sister Henry described her first attempts at debate as less deliberate. In one of her earliest debates, she said she nervously took the floor, flailing her hands high in the air and banging on the lectern while reciting points she scribbled in a small notebook.

 But she looks back on her time in the Hall as one of self-improvement. According to Brother Woodard, her improvement is evidence of the transformative power of Phi Kappa. Specifically, he noted her speech at the 2015 Inter-Society Debate as a proud moment as both a sponsor and a sibling.

 Phi Kappa’s win that night holds particular resonance for Sister Henry who witnessed three consecutive losses. In her final year, she said the victory was a nice end note to  her career compared to a time three years earlier when she racked up $300 in library fines for books on ocean privatization to help the ISD team and only to watch them lose. It also represented the end of a tradition that she hopes new members never have to experience.

 “That probably made me happier than anything that the freshmen saw a win. So they don’t feel like they have this huge burden on them to break the cycle. They’ve watched us work hard and do that for them and so I think the thing that was gratifying to me was that this was inspirational to younger members,” Sister Henry said.


From an active to an alumna

  Known for outspokenness on the floor, her last speech as an active struck a tone of resignation as she paced about the lectern, occasionally at a loss for words.  She urged newer siblings to realize their future responsibility and their voice because the society is in transition. 

 With her graduation two weeks away, the end of her active Phi Kappa career has occupied her mind lately. In describing her presidency, she framed it as an important stepping stone stating that she provided a more unorthodox model of leadership that she felt was important for siblings to see. The thought of her active membership coming to end, however, was more difficult to process. 

 “I feel like I’m trying to keep myself in denial because this has been four years of my life that I devoted very intensely. It’s an exciting time and somber time for me,” Sister Henry said.

 It has also been historic.


Alumni Spotlight: Br. Morris Abrams

Born in rural South Georgia in 1918, Brother Morris Abram would become one of Phi Kappa’s most distinguished alumni through his lifelong commitment to service, holding many titles, but never forgetting his one important goal of equal opportunity and respect. 

Raised in the Baptist south, Brother Abram’s Jewish heritage positioned him to understand what being a minority felt like. As a young man, he became acutely aware of the conflicts inherent between the Fourteenth Amendment and southern practices. A mere ninety pounds, he adopted a big voice that earned him a place as a guest speaker in nearby black churches. Describing his own talent, he remarked “I could almost in the manner of a local preacher breathe fire and brimstone.”

During his undergraduate days at the University of Georgia, he would join Phi Kappa Literary Society during which time he would attempt something that had never been done before: induct a sitting U.S. President. It worked. Accompanied by a group of family and friends, Brother Abram witnessed the induction of honorable Brother Franklin D. Roosevelt. 

After reportedly graduating with the highest GPA in the university’s history, he served during World War II and enrolled as Rhodes Scholar at Oxford shortly after. His assignment to conduct legal research in the Nuremburg trials, however, would motivate him for the rest of his life to campaign for human rights. 

His 14-year fight to overturn Georgia’s electoral rules that established the county unit system favoring rural white voter, bringing cases to the Supreme Court before it was overturned in 1963 as unconstitutional. Subsequently, he would serve under fight U.S. presidents as the representative to various commissions including the United Nations. 

After his own fight with Leukemia in 1972, he would live more than 20 years to found the U.N. Watch, an organization created to monitor application of UN charter that still exists today. 

In all of his tremendous achievements, Brother Abram brought the siblinghood that Phi Kappa so encourages in our hall to a wider audience, stressing equality and understanding. Moreover, he used to his eloquent voice to speak to the issues that still deeply plague us. His death does not deter the tremendous burden he places on each one of us to challenge ourselves to live by his example.


Is the end of human civilization likely to become imminent in the next century?

Come tell us what you think! Please join the Phi Kappa Literary Society this Thursday April 16 at 7 p.m. in Phi Kappa Hall on North Campus as we debate the decline of human civilization. First Affirm will be Sister Sarah Anne Owens and First Negate will be Sister Halle Brooke Hammond. We will use the following definitions:

BIHR: The decline of human civilization is likely to occur within the next century-

  • The decline: the diminishing in strength or quality
  • Human civilization: the most advanced stage of human organization defined by its economic, political, military, diplomatic, social, and cultural relations.
  • Is likely to occur: is more probable to occur than to not occur
  • Within the next century: in the 100 years following 2015 



Happy Birthday Brother Banton!

The Phi Kappa Literary Society would like to extend the happiest of birthday wishes to our own First Assitant, Brother Richard Banton. We hope your day is bright as your presence in our Hall and your memories are as strong as your oratory. To Order!