An explanation behind the dating and hook-up culture at Notre Dame


Is an SYR, a dorm party, or hip-hop night the only way to actually meet that special someone?  The panel “Ring by Spring, Hooking Up & Opting Out: Redefining Notre Dating,” which took place Thursday, September 18, set out to explore possible reasons for the archetype of the Notre Dame relationship process and to define “Notre Dating.”

The panel consisted of two professors from the Department of Sociology, Christian Smith and Jessica Collett, as well as two students who are both involved with the Gender Relations Program, junior Nora Williamson and sophomore Faisal Shariff.  The panel and audience tried to explain and think of ways to redefine the dating culture at Notre Dame.

Williamson began the conversation by noting what she believes is one of the biggest dating problems on campus: communication.  “I know a lot of people who do want a relationship but will end up hooking up with someone and hoping that he or she will call, and it’s just hard because people need to communicate with each other,” she said.

After this comment, the panel and audience discussed the various definition of “hooking up” at Notre Dame.  Is hooking up with someone holding hands on south quad, kissing at the SYR, or is it defined by more serious physical interactions and behaviors?

They concluded that “hooking up” is an intentionally ambiguous term that could be used as bragging rights to others or to confuse couples in relationships.  Again, they emphasized that communication within a relationship is crucial.

Shariff continued the conversation by discussing the limitations that many students tend to impose upon themselves within a fast-paced college atmosphere.  Because people are so driven and career-oriented, they often believe that they do not have time for relationships; they turn to hooking up as an “easy out.”

But how does one opt out of this?  At the center of forming lasting relationships that defy the “hook up” norm lies the power of having meaningful conversations with people and making the effort to hang out with different groups, rather than being attached to just one.  The panel seemed to agree that one could find meaningful conversation in almost any situation or place; however, not everyone in the audience was in agreement.

“If you’re going to a dorm party in a small, dark crowded, scary room with people packed in, centimeters from each other’s faces, unable to hear, and drunk, I don’t think that’s the right place to find meaningful conversation or look for long lasting relationships, platonic or romantic,” commented a sophomore from the audience.

Shariff pointed out that what he called a “social lubricant” (alcohol) was at the root of Notre Dame’s dating culture dilemma.  “People turn to alcohol to give them courage and go up to someone they are interested in; I don’t think that’s right,” he explained.  “You should be able to think and acknowledge feelings and take the step to go and talk to them.”

The panel and audience went on to discuss the ever-increasing effect that social media has on relationships.  Social media platforms that are popular within the Notre Dame community such as ND Makeouts, ND Crushes, and Facebook seem to take away from the awareness of the reality of those around us.

Smith described social media’s disorienting effect: “People feel a schizophrenia between their public identity on social media and their real identity of themselves … that creates a disconnect to the real self and creates a certain amount of anxiety.”

The panel seemed to agree that social media can almost destroy initial conversations or even be used to obsess over someone you are interested in.

“Making good friends takes a long time.  Most people I know have met ‘friends’ at dorm parties,” Notre Dame sophomore Ann Gallagher told the Rover.  “However, I wouldn’t say dorm parties are the way to make lasting friendships.  The way to meet someone is getting involved in things you are interested in, like clubs and events.”


Crystal Avila is a sophomore majoring in communications and minoring in Spanish and film. She enjoys playing her big red guitar while contemplating all the homework she should be doing. Contact her at