Need a backup plan for your love life? The marriage pact could provide just that

Callie Fausey

Staff Writer

Created by students at Stanford University, the Marriage Pact  uses a survey and an algorithm to find students the perfect romantic back-up partner. GRAPHIC  BY HALEY KEIZUR/FOGHORN

Whether they are fishing for a date out of a sea of people in-person, or trying to forge a match on Tinder, most USF students aren’t looking for someone to tie the knot with at St. Ignatius Church. Dating can often be overwhelming given the seemingly endless amount of options showcased on dating apps, so trying to find “the one” can sometimes feel impossible. After noticing this common conundrum, former Stanford students Sophia Sterling-Angus and Liam McGregor banded together to create a potential solution: the Marriage Pact.

It started as a joke when the Stanford undergraduates created the Marriage Pact in 2017, but it soon became a multi-year study utilizing economic theory and computer science to help students find their “back-up plan” for love. The 10-minute survey associated with the pact has since spread to more universities across the country. Since finding a life partner isn’t a priority for most college students, the Marriage Pact aims to spark new connections for potential long-term relationships down the line. 

Despite the intentions of Sterling-Angus and McGregorto help students find their perfect backup plan, university students have reported some major flops. For example, at Princeton University, a pair of twins were matched with each other. In addition, Duke University students expressed concern over their privacy and the misuse of their data, since the Marriage Pact is now a full-on corporation, even though the university’s pact promised against such misuse in a privacy statement issued alongside the project. 

Although the controversial algorithm’s outcomes are hit-or-miss, some people have found genuine connections and real romances from the pact. That includes one “actual freaking marriage” from the more than 26,000 matches made thus far, according to the Marriage Pact’s website.

Last year, Yale University sophomore ethics, politics, and economics student Claire Ning Fang wrote about her experience using the Marriage Pact in her university’s student paper following its arrival at Yale. She shared her experience with the Foghorn.

“Although my experience with the Pact wasn’t as much of a success as I’d hoped, it was ultimately useful,” Fang said. “The questions it asked were more personal, controversial even, than those usually asked by dating sites or other such matchmaker services and I appreciated that.” 

The Pact recently came to the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), where students flocked to complete the survey after receiving an email from the school’s Marriage Pact representatives.

Avery Hogan, a junior physics major at UCSB, said his reason for taking the survey was because he is “chronically f*****g single.” In the hopes of finding someone compatible, he answered 52 questions, which began with basic “about me” information, such as political and religious affiliations. 

The rest of the questions in the survey range from casual inquiries such as, “Do you like drama?” to more hard-hitting questions like, “Do you want to start a family?” and “Do you care if your partner does hard drugs?” Answers were on a 7-point scale with agree-disagree extremes of “Hell nah” and “Hell yeah.” 

Hogan said, “I wasn’t necessarily expecting a relationship, but it seemed like a good way to meet someone because it’s really hard to meet people right now.” 

Hogan got his match, and according to the algorithm, they were a 99.97% match, one of the closest to perfect on his campus. Unfortunately, though, nothing has come of his match. Hogan followed her on Instagram and she didn’t follow back. He emailed her and she did not respond. 

“She was probably just doing it for fun. From what I’ve read about other UCSB students’ experiences online, very few people created actually genuine relationships from it,” Hogan said.

Nothing came of it for Lauren Jennings, a junior UCSB marine biology student, either. Jennings has a boyfriend, so she wasn’t looking for anything romantic, but said she thought it would be a fun way to make a friend and talk to someone new during the pandemic. She followed her match on Instagram but was too nervous to reach out. 

“I think it was from the social anxiety I have accumulated during the pandemic,” Jennings said. “I wish I had messaged and talked to her! I still might, eventually.” 

In February of this year, the Marriage Pact arrived at Dartmouth College as well. Unlike the results at UCSB, the Dartmouth Pact was more successful according to Tippa Chan, a sophomore at Dartmouth who worked as part launch team for the Marriage Pact. 

“We managed to get about 40% of the student body to participate,” Chan said in an email. “I honestly just wanted to develop a sense of community among the student body in these isolating times.” 

Even if the experience doesn’t result in love, students interviewed still recommended participating if USF were to take part. 

“This might be a good way for people to get out of their comfort zone and combat the social anxiety that has threatened us all in the past year,” Jennings said. 

Will the Marriage Pact come to USF? Students can apply to have the Marriage Pact come to their school through the Marriage Pact website. Their about page includes the statement, “We work with students on the ground at each campus to launch custom Marriage Pacts and ensure the experience is inclusive for everyone.” 

Maybe it won’t spark any marriages, but it could foster some new friendships and, potentially, even a romance or two.

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