The art of dating lost on college campuses

Ginny Jacobs
Contributing Writer

You don’t have to be on campus for very long to know about the unusually large number of University students who marry each other. As a group, we boast about this high percentage, as well as at least consider the option of joining the four-year-long wait list to be married in Rooke Chapel. However, similar to just about any college, if you go ask the average student about the campus dating scene, the most common answer you will get is, “What dating scene?” Few people are actually in relationships and the notion of going on an actual date is outdated. The word “dating” is not in the vocabulary of many college students. It seems like a relic from the college days of our parents, almost on par with words on the verge of extinction like “pinning” or “going steady.” For most students, the formal date has been replaced by friendship, the one (or multiple) night stand or serious relationship.

One recent study indicated that most of today’s college students are not dating in the traditional sense. Instead, they are either engaging in casual sex or in serious relationships, with almost nothing in between. Dating on college campuses has been replaced by what’s commonly called “hooking up,” according to a recent nationwide study of more than 1,000 college women by the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF). Respondents define the term this way: “a girl and a guy get together for a physical encounter and don’t necessarily expect anything further.”

Why have we as a collective group switched from the conventional dating style over to this new “hook-up culture?” Kerry Cronin, a professor of philosophy at Boston College, recently gave a talk to students on this very subject and why we are no longer dating. She says she got into this topic about seven or eight years ago when talking with graduating seniors about the things they felt like they missed out on. From this, she found that a large portion of students had never gone out on an actual date throughout their college careers and regretted it. Cronin claimed she detected a sense of both, “wistfulness and anxiety among the students over the thought of graduating without having developed the basic social courage to go on a date.”

Cronin went on to argue that the hook up culture is a shortcut to fitting in socially, to having social status. We all want to tell a story at weekend brunch, where the stories are usually about who hooked up with whom, and hooking up is a way to do that. Feeling a part of something is an incredibly important part of college life. Going in and out of this hook up scene is usually motivated largely by a desire for connection, but this desire is often obstructed by a lack of courage. The difficult thing is having the simple courage to ask somebody if he or she would want to sit down for an hour and talk.

Additionally, most University students have a very limited amount of time to spend on any social activities. Most do not want to put the time or emotional effort into a committed relationship while still in college, and feel the need to concentrate on future goals. Dating is only further complicated by ambiguous language such as just talking, hooking up, friends with benefits and open-relationships, all terms used to avoid the dreaded concept of commitment. These semi-relationships relieve some of the pressure of a real relationship by allowing both people involved to leave their options open.

But who wants to graduate from college with an armload of “open options,” but no beautiful memories? Maybe it is time for our generation to rethink dating. College is the time when we are supposed to move beyond our comfort zones and acquire a variety of experiences. So why not, just one time before you cross the stage on the quad, try something truly exotic and frightening and go out on a real date?

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