On Valentine’s Day, St. Olaf College posted a video to Facebook telling the story of a romance that began right here on campus. The couple, Jenny and Doug, excitedly shared the names of their first year dorms, fondly told the tale of their first date at the Ole Store Restuarant and smiled as they reminisced about their wedding, which took place just five days after graduation. The two seem obviously happy together, with their 40-year marriage still going strong. They could literally be the poster couple for the oft-quoted phrases: “Oles marry Oles” and “Ring by spring.”
On the flip side of stories like Jenny and Doug’s, however, lies the harsher underbelly of Tinder hookups. Hookup culture certainly isn’t anything new to the college experience. College is a time to explore, so it’s to be expected that not everyone is going to want a fully committed relationship or find one right away. What might be different at St. Olaf is a heightened state of one’s “single” status, especially as peers get engaged to each other at higher rates than many colleges. The pressure to not simply date someone, but to date them with long-term intentions could result in a greater sense of shame about being single, and therefore a higher likelihood of using game-like apps such as Tinder to find any sort of connection. The idea that students should be actively seeking or expecting “a ring by spring” implies there is something inferior about being single, which isn’t a healthy mindset when navigating college life.
But, let’s face it. Students getting engaged while others use Tinder isn’t actually a “weird” phenomena in and of itself. What I find “weird” is the school using its reputation of large numbers of Ole marriages as an advertising strategy to attract prospective students.
Should St. Olaf, an academic institution, really be telling potential students that finding a romantic relationship is a fundamental part of their college experience? Although the video from Valentine’s day promotes a “wholesome” image for St. Olaf, I worry that it tells students (especially women) that romance should be taking just as much of a central place in college life as education.
A healthy romantic relationship is a truly wonderful thing that I think many of us would feel lucky to have. However, I believe that relationships should be considered a welcome addition to the college experience, not a central achievement with the same level of importance as earning your degree.
Grace Hermes ’21 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Portland, Ore. She majors in English and history.