Speed dating is not just for desperate 30-somethings anymore. Last Saturday evening, over 25 students, most of whom were women, gathered at the 200 Church Street residence hall for an exercise in speedy romance.

“Get hitched or get laid!” promised the event’s Facebook group. “Tired of talking to the same people? Tired of not talking to anyone? Then come to speed date!! Find a friend! Find a fling! Find a hirsband!”

According to event co-organizer Ayana Mortley ’12, the event was not just about finding romantic partners.

“[Speed dating is a] no-pressure event that facilitates socialization with members of social groups one may not identify as being part of,” Mortley wrote in an e-mail to The Argus.

The event was organized as a fundraiser for the Youth Coalition for Community Action (YCCA), a new campus group devoted to volunteer work in underprivileged urban communities.

“The YCCA is partnered with Our School at Blair Grocery, which is a new school in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans that works to educate and empower the impoverished youth of the neighborhood to be self-sufficient and self-sustainable by teaching them urban farming skills, construction skills, urban planning skills, business skills, and many other skills that endow the youth to recreate and maintain their community without outside assistance,” Mortley wrote.

Speed dating was invented in Los Angeles in the 1990s by one Rabbi Yaacov Deyo as a way for Jewish singles to meet, and has since spread across the world, catering to singles interested in meeting one another quickly and efficiently.

Before the event began, each participant was assigned numbers and given a pen and paper. Over homemade cookies, each student had a four minute conversation with the person seated across from them at a long table, and then rotated one seat to the right. There was no separation based on gender or sexual orientation so that participants would have no trouble meeting partners or making friends, regardless of their sexual preferences or reason for attending.

“Speed dating is inherently hetero-normative,” said Joanna Bourain ’12, a participant.

The organizers agreed, but tried to shatter this speed-dating convention.

“The event was designed to break out of the common substance-involving party structure, as well as the hetero-normative structure under which speed-dating was originally invented, and simply facilitate a safe space where students could meet other students with no sexual or social pressure or tension,” Mortley wrote.

As awkward as the event could have been, this reporter does not regret taking the assignment. There were interesting conversations and acceptable cookies to be had, and a more intelligent, friendly, and diverse group of students would be hard to imagine.

Many students attended the event because they were members of YCCA or friends with the organizers.

“200 Church is a strong community,” said Christine Khan ’13. “There are a lot of 200 Church people here.”

Bourain agreed.

“So far, I’ve only ‘dated’ people I knew already. I’m supporting my friends,” Bourain said.

Others attended in order to socialize, network, or possibly to find a romantic partner.

“I see it as a way to meet new people, see some faces I haven’t seen before,” said Aaron Colbert ’12, a resident of La Casa. “If any romance happened, I wouldn’t be opposed to it. Meeting people at parties is just hooking up. You don’t get to know them…actually, sometimes you do. But this is a good change of scenery.”

Cory Meara-Bainbridge ’13 is a member of YCCA, but that was not the only reason for her participation in the event.
“A lot of people have been saying that there aren’t a lot of ways to meet people here besides drunken parties,” she said. “It’s nice to have an actual conversation.”

After the beginning of freshman year, some students have difficulty continuing to expand their social circle.

“Romantic involvement is not what I’m looking for,” said Joyous Bey ’12. “I just want to meet new friends.”

In the end, speed dating at 200 Church was more about finding new friends, supporting old friends, and supporting the YCCA. Event organizers declined to comment on whether or not any matches had been made.

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