Lexington, KY—After receiving a billion-dollar donation from a philanthropist who seeks to restore family values worldwide, Cerise College announced that it would revive its long-abandoned tradition of propelling its graduates into immediate marriage.
“We hesitate to admit it today, but part of the point of college is to find a suitable husband or wife,” said President Lindsey Bennett in a press conference. “We have gone much too far in the other direction.” (Audience members later debated the meaning of “the other direction”: whether Bennett meant that Cerise students now sought out unsuitable spouses, ran away from potential spouses, or ignored the whole thing.)
Back in the old days, according to Class of 1949 alumna Eleanor Trouw, students would identify their future mate within the first two weeks. “The timing is crucial,” she said. “If you miss the boat, you lose all wiggle room.” After locating each other, the young man and woman would begin a slow courtship, which would culminate in engagement at the end of freshman year. They would remain engaged for another three years, and then, immediately upon graduating, get married and take off for a honeymoon in Paris or the Bahamas.
“Of course, it rarely worked out that way,” noted Trouw’s classmate George Peirasmos. “You had breakups, misunderstandings, Vegas honeymoons, many of the things we still have today. The point is, you still had time to fix things up, and you had a firm deadline.” He described the Sophomore Shuffle, where those who had lost their future spouses, or never found them, would attend a series of parties in order to rectify the situation. A similar series of festivities, somewhat more frazzling, awaited juniors. By senior year, those who had not “hooked up” were left alone. “No one wanted to impose anything,” explained Peirasmos in a nostalgic tone. “Even back then, some people just weren’t made for the married life.”
Could gays and lesbians take part in these rituals? “Certainly, if their aim was to find a partner of the opposite sex,” snapped Trouw. “In fact, many did take part, and their sexuality never came up. It was their own private business.” There would have been no room, Trouw pointed out, for gay couples per se. Nor, according to President Bennett, does the current plan allow for them. “Our donor insists that we honor true American values,” Bennett explained, “and those are the values you see on cereal boxes and board games. A family sitting around a table—a real family, that is, with man, wife, son, and daughter. The way was in the ’50s, and the way it should be now, according to our donor.”
With the revived tradition, the college enjoys a new computer center, cafeteria, gymnasium, in-house matchmaking service, and career counseling center. In addition, it plans to purchase full-page engagement advertisements in the New York Times and elsewhere. Yet even with these enticements, some trustees worry that enrollment will decline. “Kids are used to their liberties now, as well they should be,” said Jack Mamash, chair of the board of trustees. “Marriage is considered optional, and it doesn’t typically come with GPA consequences.”
What GPA consequences? “Clearly, a student who fails to fulfill Cerise’s premarital requirements is flouting her duties to the community,” said Bennett, “and community life is part of academics here.” She added: “You can always learn things later, but you can’t always get married later. In addition, we must be mindful of the bottom line.” Thus students who failed to meet the various deadlines for courtship, engagement, and marriage would suffer sharp GPA deductions. Those who did meet all marriage-related deadlines would get grade boosts and other school-related perks, like seating priority in lecture halls.
Students’ reactions to the new policy were mixed. “I’m trying to transfer to Epictetus College,” said sophomore Vera Neydu. “I just think it’ll be better for me.”
Others expressed conditional enthusiasm. “If they explain to us just how we’re supposed to find the right fiancée, then I’m fine with it,” said incoming freshman Anzori Chkhartishvili. “I’ve had too many girls just walk away from me as soon as I told them my name. My culture is beautiful and they don’t know or care. What if that happens at Cerise? What am I to do?”
For one thing, Mr. Chkhartishvili could invest in an engagement ring, said Cerise’s financial consultant Emmet Bilger. “That, and build up a good stock portfolio. We tell the young ladies here to look for men with a future. We’re that kind of place.”