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Thursday, Feb. 22
The Indiana Daily Student

Despite changes in dating, romance lives on in Rose Well

Rose Well

At nearly midnight Monday, freshman Zach Jones walked into his girlfriend’s dorm room and told her to put her shoes on right away.

Becca Foote, also a freshman, was already in bed, wearing her pajamas. She looked at him and asked if she could wear her flip-flops.

“No, put on real shoes,” Zach said. “We’re trekking through the snow.”

Once they were outside Collins Center, Zach knew they needed to hurry, so he started running with Becca close behind. The snow had started to fall about an hour before, and there were fewer than 10 minutes until Valentine’s Day.

Becca didn’t know what her boyfriend was planning, but as she saw the gazebo on the edge of Dunn’s Woods, she realized the tradition unfolding.

Midnight at the Rose Well House is a more-than-century-long campus tradition of romance and a single kiss. While the tradition lives on, dating in college has changed.

“People don’t know how to express romance,” said Justin Garcia, a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute who studies topics such as uncommitted sex and hook-up culture in emerging adulthood.

For college students, Garcia said, first dates of dinner and a movie are rare, and the media glorifies casual sex, making it look fun-filled and without consequences.

Nationally, more than two-thirds of college students have had at least one sexual hookup, meaning anything from kissing to sex, yet most walk away with a negative reaction, Garcia said.

They walk away, yet the desire for love, one of the strongest in the world, still lingers. Garcia has found in his research that 50 percent of college men and women admit they are looking for a relationship.

In June 1998, Brian Boyle, then about to start his senior year, wanted to propose to his girlfriend. She had just graduated and was moving to Atlanta for work while Brian finished school.

“I thought that year would be more bearable if we had something to look forward to,” he said.

Brian’s first plan was to go to Showalter Fountain, but then he realized how public it was. At the last minute, he opted for the secluded and traditional well house. When he proposed, his now-wife, Jeni, said she was speechless as she nodded yes.

“It was perfect and not a public spectacle,” he said. “It was a private moment.”
Tradition states for a female student to be a “true coed,” she must be kissed by an upperclassman in the well house at midnight. The kiss must continue until the Student Building clock has chimed 12 times.

The well house, built in 1908, was named for then-member of the Board of Trustees Theodore Rose. He had it built over an old cistern as a way to save limestone portals from a building on IU’s first campus. The house became a popular spot to give fraternity pins or engagement rings.

As a fourth-generation IU student, Zach grew up hearing about the tradition of taking someone important for a kiss at the well house. But when he made his plans, he didn’t tell his family. He said he’d rather wait and tell them the story in person when he sees them this weekend.

When Valentine’s Day neared its last hour, the snow had melted and crows peered down from the treetops at the few couples in the well house. The air filled with the sound of wings flapping and crow poop splattering on the sidewalk.

But the night Zach and Becca were there, the ground was covered in a layer of white, and the air was quiet. Six other couples were in and around the well house, quietly talking and playing in the snow. It was Zach and Becca’s first Valentine’s Day together, and Zach had plans to make it special.

On a college campus, causal hookups can be acceptable because obligations are few. Becca said some of her friends are happier single because they think they might be missing out on someone else.

But for her and Zach, it’s about simple things — hanging out in a dorm room, watching “The Big Bang Theory” and a first date at Collins’ brunch.

Inside the well house, they found a spot and watched Zach’s phone for the countdown. As the clock changed to midnight, the chimes of a clock tower didn’t toll. But as the snow fell, seven couples stood kissing. Tradition lived. And Zach and Becca shared a kiss.

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