Over the past few weeks, brightly colored posters dotted doors and bulletin boards around campus, asking Yalies whether they were “Woadsing solo,” whether News op-eds were draining their self-esteem or whether the popular class “Psychology and the Good Life” has failed to make them happy. In all cases, the posters proclaimed the solution was to attend the “Y-List” speed dating event.
On Friday night, 45 Yalies conversed, mingled, made friends and formed relationships at the Y-List Speed dating event in a classroom at Evans Hall. During the event, which was organized by two Yale undergraduates and two graduate students at the Yale School of Management, participants had short conversations with one another and answered questions ranging from the cliched — such as “What is your favorite TV show?” — to the profound. After the event, participants wrote down the names of those students they would like to meet again — whether as friends or as dates — and the organizers subsequently emailed attendees with the names of those with whom they “matched.”
“It was an interesting experience and a fun way to meet dope new people,” Joshua Murray ’20 said. “Plus, they had free Pringles, and you know what? Having free Pringles never hurts.”
Each matched pair of participants was entered into a lottery for a $50 gift card for the Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant in New Haven. Murray, who won the gift card along with the participant he matched with, said he would consider attending similar events in the future, especially a “friend-making” version.
At the event, participants received several conversational props, including a list of speed dating questions and prompt cards from popular ice-breaking games such as “Confessions” and “Never Have I Ever.” Three volunteers were also invited to share a personal story or secret with everyone in the room to win a $30 Starbucks gift card.
According to Jakub Madej ’20, who came up with the idea for the event, conversations at Yale are often superficial — for example, about how the day’s classes or an exam went — and the activities and “provocative” questions at the event were designed to counter small talk.
“I have this bizarre interest in dating,” Madej said. “I think it’s a fun activity to get to know people beyond the surface and I think this does not happen at Yale to the extent that it should. A lot of people feel awkward about this. So, I thought, if we have an environment in which people feel encouraged to ask someone out, that could potentially change something.”
Although the event was open to the entire Yale community, it was marketed specifically to undergraduates. In order to register, aspiring participants were required to enter their name, age, residential college, gender, dating preferences, academic major, pet peeve, favorite Yale class, faith and one “cool thing” about themselves in an online form. They could also choose to indicate whether they planned to attend Y-List to make friends or to date.
According to Madej, while some of this information was used to “match” participants with one another and guide conversations, attendees were encouraged to interact with as many people as possible. Throughout the event, participants sat down at tables and rotated places every five minutes.
Participants were also required to pay $4 to the organizers at the time of registration. In order to encourage those who signed up to attend, Madej said, the organizers returned $5 to participants at the venue. Of the 60 Yalies who registered, around 45 attended the event.
The event was funded by nearly $700 from the Yale College Council Community Engagement Grant. Madej partnered with News staff writer Kiddest Sinke ’20 to plan the event and apply for the grant. According to Madej, who said he was initially unsure of the appeal of his idea, the YCC’s endorsement of the event was “powerful.” Later, Madej heard about Y-List, a dating website created exclusively for Yalies. Y-List co-founders Ruirui Kuang SOM ’18 and Abhi Moturi SOM ’18 said they welcomed the opportunity to collaborate.
“We realized that there were ways that we could partner so we decided to co-host this event and see whether or not we could bring our app into real life,” Kuang said. “We truly believe that there are a lot of really cool, interesting people at Yale and that people actually want to meet each other. We want to use this app to facilitate those interactions and to build connections because it can be very intimidating to ask people out and also you may not know who else is on campus.”
In interviews with the News, several participants said they appreciated the opportunity to meet new people.
Guna Mandava ’21 said he enjoyed getting to know other Yalies whom he may not have otherwise met since they were pursuing different majors or lived in residential colleges other than his own.
“It was a lot of fun,” Elena Smith ’21 said. “It was better than attempting to social network through Tinder because I know a lot of people who purposely raise their age just to swipe and meet lawyers and medical students for networking purposes.”
Smith said she the event was initially awkward and that the prompt cards and questions could have been better designed. However, she said, she would attend a similar event in the future because she enjoyed meeting new people from outside her established social circle.
The organizers acknowledged that the event suffered from some logistical fumbles, including late-arriving participants and a skewed gender ratio of about three men for every woman, which caused some participants to leave the venue at the beginning of the event. However, according to Moturi, despite having to improvise as the evening progressed, the event went “really well” and successfully spread the word about Y-List. Kuang noted that only half the YCC funds went toward the event and that the other half would be used to organize a similar event in the future.
“I’m trying to make people rethink dating,” Madej said. “Speed dating may not be the best way but I have to start somewhere.”
Saumya Malhotra | firstname.lastname@example.org