Marriage Pact returns to Brandeis
After a highly publicized run in March 2022, the matchmaking service has returned to campus for a second round of romance facilitation.
Last semester, when @brandeismarriagepact launched on Instagram with a stylish dating questionnaire in its bio, campus was abuzz with speculation and excitement. The service, first established at Stanford in 2017, pairs students whose values — ethical, political, and social — match up. Questions range in intensity, from “Are you an only child?” to “Would you be comfortable with your child being gay?” Survey results are first released as just the initials of your match, followed by full names and compatibility scores a few days later. Both ends of the match are notified, leaving it up to them to pursue any kind of connection.
In 2022, Brandeis became one of 78 participating schools. Within a day of the 50-question-survey’s launch, over 300 Brandeis students had filled it out in hopes of finding a potential mate. Over the next week, through word of mouth and Instagram promotion, that number swelled to 1,098 — over a third of the undergraduate population.
The service made its way to Brandeis largely through the efforts of the Brandeis Entrepreneurship and Tech Association, a relatively new club at the time. In a March 8 interview with the Justice, BETA founder Eyal Cohen ’24 said, “BETA is all about finding creative solutions to problems that arise. After transferring to Brandeis from Kenyon College, I noticed there was a lack of cohesion among students here. We wanted to be able to connect people to one another, across campus, as much as possible.”
While Cohen’s observation about the Brandeis social environment might be true, Marriage Pact seemed to lose steam almost immediately after matches were released, despite the hype around its initial launch. Molly Brown ’25 remembers getting paired with someone in a relationship, which was an experience shared by many. “A lot of people who did it were in relationships and only participated because they thought it was funny. The matches came out, and then it was dead silent — I thought it was fun but no one I know has gotten anything out of it,” Brown said.
This issue with relationship status was one of the more highly contested aspects of Marriage Pact’s rollout. One of the survey’s questions asked about the person’s current relationship status and if they were interested in polyamory. Ostensibly, this would lead to people with matching statuses being paired, but it didn’t pan out for most people. Other students described their experiences as “scary” and “mid.” Across all campuses, Marriage Pact’s website touts only a 3-4% success rate at pairing long-term couples. No such poll has been taken at Brandeis, but it’s rare to find someone whose match turned out to be anything but a mute stranger.
Another obstacle was gender deficits — a problem faced by a myriad other participating schools, including Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania. At Brandeis, a surplus 155 heterosexual females were left without male matches. In the eleventh hour, Marriage Pact’s Instagram posted a potential solve: refer a heterosexual or bisexual male friend to the survery to get moved off the waitlist. This kind of marketing was also employed at UPenn to great success.
Certain questions on the survey drew ire from students, including questions about race, ethnicity, and certain political beliefs. Brown recalls one question which asked students if they wanted their match to be the same ethnicity. The question reads, “By default, people are equally likely to match with individuals of any ethnicity. Given historical contexts, there are some reasons why people might want to opt out of this default. Would you like to opt out?” Participants could answer with a “yes” or a “no.”. “I thought it was so bizarre - on one hand I understand it for BIPOC students who don't want to be matched with someone who would microaggress them or not understand them. To a certain extent it makes sense but it's also really tricky,” Brown explained.
Returning to the “Would you be comfortable with your child being gay?” question, Marriage Pact acknowledges that these questions may seem to be based in prejudice or intolerance. Their website states, “While surveys show that almost everyone in college shares our support, we also recognize that queerphobia does exist in our world. As such, an important responsibility of the Marriage Pact questionnaire is to identify incompatible views privately so that students will not experience discrimination when connecting with their matches.” These kinds of hurdles highlight the complicated nature of matchmaking, especially within diverse communities.
Marriage Pact’s website also advertises plans for future matchmaking services. One is “Soulmate Radar,” which uses location-tracking software to alert an individual when a passerby has a high compatibility score with them. Another is “Checkmate,” which scores compatibility between any two people, allowing friends to measure their ideological similarities. Checkmate’s description reads, “Check your long-term compatibility score with anyone. Send your friends questions. See who’s getting scanned. Discuss the ensuing tea.” Judging from this quote as well as plenty of other ads on Marriage Pact’s Instagram pages, the service is clearly targeted toward Gen Z. While most social media sites are as well, Marriage Pact marks a deepening foray into a Gen-Z-based social etiquette.
As Marriage Pact relaunched at Brandeis just a week ago, we’ve yet to see whether it will simply be a repeat of last semester’s run — the same controversies, the same success rate, the same level of participation, etc. For the second time, only a day into the survey’s launch, it had over 300 participants, matching last semester’s quantity. As for measuring the quality of this semester’s Marriage Pact, we’ll have to wait and see.