Freshman Speed-Dating

HCLA date auction
Rebecca J. Margolies

Pre-Valentine's Day Date Auction fundraiser for Haiti

Approximately 100 freshmen slogged through the Cambridge slush last Thursday evening to potentially find their soulmate—or at least enjoy free massages and burritos. Inside Ticknor Lounge, students slid into twelve rows of chairs and adopted identifying numbers, ready to commit to the College’s first-ever freshmen speed-dating event, "Sex, Love, & Harvard." The event was hosted by the Center for Wellness and the Freshman Dean's Office.

Organizers collaborated with a variety of peer counseling and education groups on campus including Peer Contraceptive Counselors, True Love Revolution, Contact, Response, and the Radcliffe Union of Students in order to make the experience reflective of different perspectives on dating, according to Freshman Dean's Office Director for Residential Education and Arts Initiatives Rory M. Sullivan '09.

The program was led by Liz Janiak '03 and included discussions with a panel of upperclassmen, dealing with cross-cultural relationships, coming out, and whether anything really changes after freshman year. The panel, to the visible relief of many freshman audience members, concluded that dating and relationship norms change after freshman year.

Following the discussion, the speed-dating began. Participants worked through a list of prepared icebreakers such as dream vacations and favorite or least favorite Annenberg dishes, while others bravely abandoned the suggestions altogether. The participants recorded the indentifcation numbers of students they found interesting, and if there was mutual interest, both students would be notified after the event.

Though "peer pressure" originally drew Mercer R. Cook '14 to the event, he left with two speed-daters' numbers on his card.

"It was fun … you get to meet new people," Cook said. "But [they are] both people I already knew … groups of friends sit together."

Christina C. Russell '14 had a bit more luck.

"I'm interested in meeting people to date but I didn't have super high expectations," she said. "I think some guys took it seriously, a few were really sweet and sincere, and it was total luck of the draw if you got to sit with those people." Her tally? Four potential matches.

Speed-dating seems to have a bright future at Harvard: Sullivan and fellow event co-organizer Jeanne M. Mahon, director of the Center for Wellness, both said they would like to host a similar event next year—and perhaps spark even more connections.

"If you want to have the best options, play the numbers game," said Sullivan. "I'd want people to widen their net of who they say yes to, who they say maybe to."

Photo by Rebecca J. Margolies/The Harvard Crimson

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