Dating Has Died at College — This Campaign Hopes to Revive It

The Love and Fidelity Network is helping students navigate romance on campus without having to participate in the ‘hook-up culture.’

(photo: MNStudio via

PRINCETON, N.J. — On a day marked by flowers, chocolate and romantic greeting cards, the Love and Fidelity Network is trying to bring back authentic relationships, especially to college campuses, where dating seems to be a thing of the past.

“We’ve heard from students so many times over the years that most people on campus — those engaged in the hook-up culture and those who have already chosen to forgo it — simply don’t know how to go on a date,” Caitlin La Ruffa, Love and Fidelity Network executive director, told CNA.

“Instead,” she explained, “romantic relationships on campus tend to take two forms — anonymous hook-ups, where attachment, communication or care are against the ‘rules,’ or co-dependent serially monogamous pairings, where ‘the relationship’ is defined long before suitability of the partnership has been assessed.”

“Going on casual dates — which allow a person to express an appropriate level of interest and to begin getting to know another person and opening themselves up to be known — runs radically counter to both of those trends.”

Spanning from coast to coast, the “Bring Dating Back” campaign is being hosted at 36 college campuses this week leading up to Valentine’s Day, including several Ivy League schools, such as Yale, Harvard, Brown, Princeton and Columbia. That number grew from some 30 campuses participating last year.

“We wanted to build off the success of last year’s campaign and give students practical tips on how to navigate romance on campus without having to participate in a ‘hook-up culture’ that is increasingly being understood as what it is: unfulfilling, dehumanizing and, frankly, less fun,” La Ruffa said.

“Bring Dating Back” is being run by the Love and Fidelity Network, a national program aimed towards teaching college students about the integrity of human sexuality, the importance of marriage and the special role of the family in society. It began in 2007 in Princeton, N.J., to challenge the poor treatment of sexuality, marriage and family on college campuses. The group now boasts a presence on 38 campuses.

On participating campuses, student groups are hosting special events leading up to Feb. 14, all dedicated to teaching students how to date casually instead of just “hooking up.”

Some campuses are screening classic romance films, hosting speakers or holding workshops, all while canvassing their campuses with posters in both English and Spanish, offering students lighthearted advice on how to bring dating back.

“This year, our focus with the posters is a message of encouragement aimed at assuaging some common sources of anxiety around dating: that it’s way too complicated or it’s going to be awkward or it’s ultra-old-fashioned or just plain scary,” La Ruffa said.

One of the posters features a Victorian-esque couple exchanging greetings while a nosey bystander gasps in disbelief with a caption that reads, “It’s not that old-fashioned.” Below is the modern-day alternative: with a guy and girl sharing some frozen yogurt with a dating “pro-tip”: “Keep it casual. Think fro-yo, not filet mignon.”

The group compiled a full list of tips with advice from how to ask someone out (“Relax. They’re human too”) to how to treat a date well (“Don’t expect to spend the night”) and how to have a great time (“It’s just a date. Have fun”).

At the University of Pennsylvania, recent Harvard grad Rachel Wagley, a Love and Fidelity Network alumna, will give a talk on dating. The Providence College Ambrose Society is hosting a student-led discussion about what love really means. Some students at Brown University are hosting a screening of the Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck classic Roman Holiday.