Consider the following statistics describing today’s undergraduates:
- 60-80% of college students have had some sort of hookup experience.
- 63% of college-age men and 83% of college-age women would prefer a traditional relationship to an uncommitted sexual one.
No doubt about it, college is the place to be if one is interested in engaging in sex.
Yet, an associate professor in psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Richard McAnulty, notes: “The vast majority of young adults hope to be in a romantic relationship characterized by mutual love and commitment.”
If the latter statistics and McAnulty’s research are accurate, then would it not seem sensible for that every administrator at every one of the nation’s Catholic universities and colleges to work assiduously to provide undergraduates a culture wherein they can fulfill their hope?
Yes, it is sensible. But, try convincing those administrators of their moral obligation to reverse the hook up culture. “How?” they ask. When told “Provide students a culture that not only raises their hopes but also assists them to translate those hopes into actual behavior,” they oftentimes opine something learned…about hopelessness…like Sisyphus.
Forget those administrators. They’re more interested in producing slick advertising campaigns and travelling all over Timbuktu to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for their institutions than they are about their primary moral obligations to form their students in wisdom and grace before God and man.
But, according to the Boston Globe, hope is alive…at Boston College.
There, the associate director of the Lonergan Institute, Kerry Cronin, is showing those feckless administrators how to build that culture. How? She’s teaching her students the lost art of dating…that is, how to date. The idea came to Cronin years back when she was delivering a lecture about the hookup culture. A student asked, “How would you ask someone on a date?…Like the actual words.”
Cronin believes most of today’s undergraduates don’t know how to date or, even, how to ask for a date. Why? This generation has grown up with relatively low expectations in the realm of “happily every after.” She notes:
- In their world, most embrace group activities that are punctuated with the periodic hookup.
- They communicate in digital bursts of 140-250 characters instead of in person.
Cronin’s pedagogical remedy? A class assignment that helps students reclaim the “lost social script” of dating. Not knowing where to begin or what to say, the assignment defines the boundaries so that students know exactly what to expect:
- The date has to be 45 to 90 minutes in length with a person of legitimate romantic interest.
- The student has to pay and has to make the invitation not by text or e-mail but in person.
- The date cannot involve alcohol, kissing, or sex.
Cronin tells her students that dating requires the courage to be vulnerable to another person. As a freshman, Frank DiMartino said about the assignment:
It’s easy to hook up with someone you’ve just met in a dark room after having a few drinks. But asking someone out on a date in broad daylight, and when you actually have to know their name, can be really scary.
Cronin’s assignment directly confronts the culture that emphasizes uncommitted sex when it’s committed love that their hearts desire. She says:
- Students use friendships and groups to satisfy social and emotional needs and see hookups as purely physical. As a result, students don’t have a relationship that allows them to address the confusions or expectations that can arise out of hookups.
- Relying on groups prevents students from learning to interact one-on-one. Getting to know another person through a group dynamic is very different from getting to know another person in an interpersonal dynamic.
- Social media, especially texting, is another way one-on-one conversations are mediated. It provides access to a constructed “virtual self.” Students may feel connected but it builds habits of “ADD-quality connections” rather than face-to-face relationships.
Cronin’s alternative builds on her students’ hope yet challenges them to risk failure. She said:
When you ask somebody, you risk failing, and nobody likes to fail or be vulnerable to rejection….[Undergraduates] like to push themselves out of their comfort zone only if the energy and effort will equal success. But when asking someone out, nothing can ensure the person is going to say yes.
Cronin believes the hookup culture “creates a part of life that is unnecessarily chaotic and lonely.”
Yes, indeed. Leading undergraduates from the darkness of sin into the light of faith, hope, and love. Cronin might not think of her assignment in this way, but she’s evangelizing young people about the Gospel of Life!
Kudos to Kerry Cronin! She’s treading in and casting her net into the deep waters that most Catholic university and college administrators fear will engulf, sink, and drown them and their careers.
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