‘U’ community lovesick following Marriage Pact results

Thursday, November 14, 2019 - 7:34pm

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Design by Michelle Fan

Students have a love-hate relationship with their Michigan Marriage Pact matches. 

The results of the questionnaire, which was developed by University of Michigan students for a class project, were released Tuesday evening. The pact used an algorithm to find students their future spouse, and the match-ups generated a flurry of discussion on campus and online groups.

After being open to undergraduate students at the University for 21 days, the questionnaire closed last week with more than 7,000 participants, meaning more than one out of every five undergraduates completed the survey. LSA junior Elien Michielssen, one of the creators of the pact, said her team never thought their class project would gain this much traction among students.

“Hearing people talk about something that you created without knowing that you created it is really, really cool,” Michielssen said. “If you haven’t taken it, you know someone who’s taken it, or you log into Facebook and see all the memes, so I think it's something that's brought campus together.”

Michielssen and her team created the project for an entrepreneurial creativity course taught by University lecturer Eric Fretz. He said his assignment had no set guidelines other than it must be “cool,” take all semester to complete and must change people’s lives in some way. In the past, he has received final products ranging from a concert at Necto Nightclub to a robot that takes the trash out.

Fretz said he isn’t surprised the pact has gone “viral” on campus — he’s heard other faculty members discussing the pact. He said he has also had friends with backgrounds in computer science reach out with interest in the project, often offering insight into the security of the website.

Fretz said he expected the questionnaire to either end up with 200-500 participants or break 5,000, but once it started spreading around campus, Fretz knew it wouldn’t stop.

“Once it becomes a thing, everybody talks about it, and then everybody wants to do it,” Fretz said. “That was that hump I knew they would have to get over, but I figured it would happen pretty quickly.”

Michielssen and her group have watched their creation turn into the talk of campus over the last three weeks. Since the results came out, private Facebook pages where students post about U-M campus life, like UMich Memes for Wolverteens and Overheard at umich, have been inundated with content about the pact.

One poster made a poll to see if people participated and, if they did, how they felt about their match. Another created a meme about being a senior matched with a freshman.

For Michielssen, logging onto social media means seeing a barrage of posts about her team’s creation, which she said she finds hilarious. 

However, not all participants were excited about their results. Several heterosexual participants reported being matched with people who identify as the same gender, as well as people being matched with their siblings or cousins.

LSA sophomore Natalie White, who found the pact through her roommates, said she felt swept up in the excitement of the mass engagement across. Because all of her roommates were filling it out, she decided to as well, but her match was not what she was expecting.

White identifies as a heterosexual woman, meaning she would be interested in matching only with heterosexual men, yet her match was also a woman. She reached out to the email the results were sent from and was told someone must have inserted the wrong gender or sexual orientation, which made White question if she had completed the questionnaire incorrectly.

“We all got our matches, and I went to look, and I was matched to someone named Rachel, and I was like, ‘Okay, that’s not usually a guy’s name,’” White said. “I was pretty sure it was a girl, so I looked her up on Instagram and it was a girl. … I don’t know if I screwed up and she was actually looking for girls, because I feel like maybe I deprived someone of finding their Michigan lover.”

Michielssen said her team received emails similar to the one White sent and immediately checked the algorithm. She said they found no errors and concluded that people either completed the questionnaire for their friend and entered the wrong sexual orientation as a joke, or people could have simply clicked the wrong option by mistake.

She noted the algorithm used MCommunity, an online resource for finding contact information for members of the University community, to verify participants were undergraduate students. She said this worked for most cases, but in some circumstances, they were unable to verify their grade level.

Additionally, Michielssen said approximately 8 percent of participants were not matched, the majority of which were heterosexual female students.

Public Health junior Renata Terrazzan was one of the female students who did not get matched. When the creators sent out an email to all participants early on in the process noting many heterosexual women might not get a match, Terrazzan said she had a feeling she might fall into that category.

“When I first got the email about 700 girls (not being matched), I was like, ‘Oh, of course it will be me,’” Terrazzan said. “Then it was, and I just thought it was kind of tea and a good story.”

Michielssen attributed this mainly to an imbalance in the number of heterosexual male and female participants. She also noted the purpose of the questionnaire is to find potential future spouses for participants, so if a large number of students of a particular gender and sexual orientation were not in the participant pool, it would make sense for there to be no match.

While she wanted everyone to find someone through the pact, Michielssen cautioned participants not to take the results to heart. She reminded people the questionnaire is for a back-up person to marry in 20 years, not to be the participant’s next significant other.

“I really want to remind people that this is a marriage pact, and it’s not meant to be taken too seriously,” Michielssen said. “In no way, shape or form are we trying to set people up right now. Our whole goal of this was if you’re single in 20 years, and you're lonely, well, this is your person.”

She said her team hopes to do a similar questionnaire next year, though they still have to work out the logistics as two team members are graduating. For Michielssen, this has become almost like a part-time job, with her team putting in multiple hours each day on the questionnaire since the beginning of the semester.

As for the team’s grade on the project, the jury is still out. The project lasts until the end of the semester, so right now Michielssen and her partners are working on responding to any issues people run into, gathering feedback from participants and preparing a presentation.

When all is said and done, Michielssen said she is hoping they get an A.

“I hope all of campus is crossing their fingers for us,” Michelssen said.