A prominent conservative feminist will debate at UCSB tonight after finally finding an opponent who was not “too chicken” to accept the challenge.

Phyllis Schlafly, nationally syndicated columnist, author and talk-show host, will appear at 7 tonight at Engineering I room 1104 to debate Anita Perez Ferguson, former president of the National Women’s Political Caucus and a Santa Barbara resident, on issues ranging from the definition of feminism to more specific topics like Title IX.

The UCSB College Republicans, who are hosting the event, initially contacted the Women’s Studies Dept. about finding a faculty member to debate Schlafly. After no one from that department stepped forward, advertisements for Schlafly’s visit appeared around campus featuring the message, “Who was too chicken to debate Phyllis Schlafly? … The ENTIRE Women’s Studies Department.”

Women’s Studies Dept. Chair Leila Rupp said those advertisements, which also featured a drawing of a chicken, partially illustrated why no one from her department was interested in the debate.

“We have a pretty small faculty with a lot of time demands, and there was just no one able to do it,” Rupp said. “We also weren’t convinced that a debate of this kind was the best way to have a serious discussion about the issues. What they are putting on is more of a Phyllis Schlafly routine. And the publicity with the chicken is not encouraging that this event was intended to be respectful.”

College Republicans Executive Director John Peters said his organization felt that “a debate was an excellent way to discuss important issues.”

Schlafly’s monthly newsletter, “The Phyllis Schlafly Report,” is in its 26th year of publication. She has authored or co-authored 13 books, hosts a weekly radio show on education and is a regular columnist for Eagle Forum, an organization with the motto, “Leading the pro-family movement since 1972.”

“One of her main focuses is the deterioration of the American family as the cause of a lot of the social ills we currently are facing,” College Republicans Program Director Antony Mascovich said.

The event will be formatted as a formal debate with opening statements, a mediator, and timed answers and rebuttals. The College Republicans and the Women’s Center, which aided in securing Perez Ferguson as a guest, each prepared a list of seven questions for debate. Both participants have already reviewed the questions.

Women’s Center Programming Director Sharon Hoshida said the questions from her side would cover a wide range of topics.

“We’re interested in the definition of a feminist,” she said. “Who is a feminist? We have questions about how you measure equity between men and women in this country – economically? Politically? We’ll also raise some university issues, like Title IX and how that works for women.”

Mascovich said the College Republicans’ questions would include the issue of women in the military and the story of a Santa Barbara woman who recently gave birth to quadruplets using artificial insemination.

“This is an unmarried woman with limited financial means,” Mascovich said. “Obviously a woman has the right to conceive, but we want to ask, is this something we want in a society?”

The event is expected to last between two and three hours.

“It should be a very lively debate,” Hoshida said. “Both of these women have extensive backgrounds as leaders, and each represents a distinct point of view.”