The dating culture on Hills­dale’s campus leaves some wanting. Pixabay

Several Hillsdale stu­dents have recom­bined forces to combat what they see as an increas­ingly per­vasive part of Hillsdale student culture: Hills­dating.

The goal of the new Under­ground Dating Ring, which is a con­tin­u­ation of a group founded two years ago by Haley Talk­ington ’17 and Carly Hubbard ’16, is to combat Hills­dating by helping people to feel more com­fortable going on casual dates and to focus on building friend­ships. Helen Potter, junior and member of the group’s exec­utive board, along with junior Nina Hufford, junior Avery Lacey, and senior Natalie Taylor, set up blind dates for the group, fol­lowed by a small get-together for all the par­tic­i­pants afterward. The group hopes their events will even­tually have an influence on Hillsdale’s overall dating culture.

“We some­times take dating too seri­ously,” Potter said. “[Our goal] is to get people more com­fortable with dating, not to set up rela­tion­ships, but to make friend­ships.”

She added that she wants to make casual dating “more of a thing” on campus in general.

“The hope is that it will help get more people to go on their own casual dates,” Potter said. “We are not trying to make a club within which you date. If you like someone, you’ll have to do that on your own.”

The exec­utive board matched up the 28 people in the group for blind dates over Parents’ Weekend, pro­viding each of the matches with an end time and a location for their date, as well as a unique ice-breaker question. The rest was up to the dates. Once the end time was reached, all the couples recon­vened at Graceland for a small get-together. The process for setting up dates is mostly random, with the goal of fig­uring out who might get along well with each other.

The exec­utive board didn’t per­sonally know everyone in atten­dance, according to Potter. She added that anyone inter­ested in joining only needed to contact herself or another exec­utive board member, directly or through anyone else par­tic­i­pating.

“This is not an exclusive group of people, but very much a way for people to have fun and make new friends,” she said. “We know of everybody. Some people are even here who did it last time. It’s good that there’s no one friend group. It helps people expand and under­stand their dating pool.”

She con­tinued by saying “dating is like a skill you have to practice,” and the dating ring is intended to help prepare its par­tic­i­pants for their own private dates.

Unlike its pre­de­cessor, the new dating ring plans to stick around until it is no longer needed.

But like the first dating ring, the group adheres to the idea that it will spiral out, according to Potter.

“Although the dating ring’s the same, they planned to run them­selves out — inten­tionally,” she said. “Being a club would go against what it’s sup­posed to be, in a way.”

Peter Haw­ersaat, sophomore and par­tic­ipant of the blind date event, said he appre­ciated the overall atmos­phere the group pro­vides.

“The group just felt like it was opening people up to casual dating, and to not be so afraid, because the culture of Hills­dating per­vades every­thing, and it’s kind of sti­fling. It’s nice to just have a date to get to know someone. I feel like if I wanted to ask someone on a date it would be much easier now. I wouldn’t feel like it’s such a big deal.”

Haw­ersaat added that, for him, the dating ring has already done its job, and he would probably only attend one more time.

“I don’t think it would per­sonally help me anymore,” he said. “Maybe for someone else, more than one blind date might be needed to loosen up. Looking at it from a friendship-making angle, as a fun time to get to know people, that would push me to do it again, but not from the view of improving dating more.”

Sophomore and dating par­tic­ipant Josh Goeltz also empha­sized that the dating ring helps cul­tivate friend­ships.

“I saw it as an oppor­tunity to get to know someone new and spend time with them,” Goeltz said. “And they just happen to be of the opposite sex.”

Goeltz explained that Hills­dating culture makes it dif­ficult for men and women to casually spend time together alone.

“It’s a real shame men and women can’t really spend time together alone and be cool with it. Even guys and girls who are friends are kind of nervous.” Goeltz con­tinued. “The culture’s so formal and based on men and women being dis­tinct, there’s no overlap, except for in dating. I want to be able to sit alone with a female friend, without other people giving me or her crap.”

Goeltz added that the pos­itive aspect of Hillsdale’s dating culture is that “it’s very con­cerned for the person that indi­viduals are inter­ested in, and very respectful of members of the opposite sex.” He said the problem is that this respect can make inter­ac­tions between men and women too formal.

“We have this thing where guys aren’t asking girls out for fear of super serious dating, and girls say no for fear of a super serious rela­tionship,” Goeltz said.

Potter said she per­sonally had enjoyed the benefit of getting to know new people through the dating ring.

“It’s good because you think you know all the good people on campus, and you find out that you don’t,” he said.