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.