At Duke, a date might be harder to find than a Science Drive bus.
The Chronicle recently asked 50 random students when they had last been on a date. 16 students responded that their last date occurred more than a year ago, and 26 said they had been on a date within the month, with the remainder answering in between. Many, however, were in agreement that Duke is a difficult place to date and find a significant other.
“The dating scene is nonexistent,” junior Steven Katsohirakis said. “It’s really hard to find someone.”
Gary Glass, associate director for outreach and developmental programming for Counseling and Psychological Services, wrote in an email that he has heard many students express their frustration with the inadequate dating scene at Duke. In addition, a 2012 study called the “Duke Social Relationships Project” and a 2014 report from Duke Inquiries in Social Relations found that approximately 75 percent of the student body wishes they were dating more.
Possible reasons offered for the current dating culture include Duke’s unique academic and social culture.
Rigorous coursework and career goals may contribute to the issue, wrote Maralis Mercado, program coordinator for health and wellness at the Wellness Center, in an email.
“Academics are very important to students and some may feel that engaging in a romantic relationship may distract them from their goals,” she wrote.
Junior Bridget Dou noted that schoolwork may contribute to the lack of dating, especially for engineers.
“Some of it might come down to us being engineers because we’re busier than other people,” she said.
Glass agreed that students may perceive forming relationships as compromising their academic or social goals, adding that he also believes students at Duke are very protective of their emotions.
Other undergraduates noted the prevalence of a “hook-up” culture—in which students form short-term, casual romantic affiliations—at Duke, with many expressing negative opinions about it.
“I never understood the hook-up culture,” senior Ben Balin said. “It just seems like a bad life strategy in general.”
Senior Kyrstin Lulow explained that she thinks that many Duke students buy into the hook-up culture even though it is “corrosive.”
Despite the perceived prevalence of the hook-up culture, Mercado noted that trends in students’ dating change over time, adding that the she thinks the dating scene at Duke is similar to that of other campuses.
“From ‘Netflix and chill’ to dating off campus, the trends come and go like students do,” she wrote.
Glass also noted that the lack of dating on campus may stem from the widespread notion that dating does not exist. He wrote though that he thinks forming real relationships can be beneficial to students.
“There are a number of skills that one develops in a relationship, including communication on different levels, navigating emotions in more nuanced ways and greater self-awareness,” he wrote.
Although students often face emotional pain during a break-up, Glass wrote that students should not avoid relationships because of this possibility, adding that students often learn about themselves through this difficult experience.
In recent years, there have been several attempts on campus to address the dating culture. Last Fall, Glass hosted an event called “Dating at Duke,” which was intended to spark conversation about student dissatisfaction with the University’s dating scene.
Mercado noted that the Wellness Center also discusses dating through its sexual health workshops. The topics covered—including honest communication and the importance of defining relationship expectations—can help students form respectful relationships, she explained.
Despite the perception that dating at Duke is nonexistent, Glass noted that he has heard more students referencing dating and relationships than in the past.
To many Duke students, dating exists but remains rare in a college environment.
“There are people who want to be in a committed relationship, but it’s hard to find,” junior Maria Folgueras said. “It took me two and a half years.”