After hearing about Cronin, Harrington and her team decided to feature the dating assignment in their new film "The Dating Project" – part dating how-to, part dating documentary.
Besides Cronin's dating assignment, the film follows five single people of varying ages and backgrounds who are looking for love – two college students, Matt and Shanzi; Cecilia, a 20-something living in Chicago; Rasheeda, a 30-something living in New York; and Chris, a 40-something from Los Angeles.
"Dating, at least here at (Boston College) has kind of a broad, uncertain, ambiguous definition," Matt says in the film.
"Definitely hooking up is more common on a college campus," Shanzi adds.
The uncertainty and ambiguity is a constant thread in every storyline. Cecilia wishes her Tinder date would tell her what he wants, Rasheeda can't remember the last time she was on a real date, or what that even means. Chris is so overwhelmed by online dating he's not sure where to begin.
The moniker "hooking up" is a term young people have embraced, Cronin noted in the film, because it could mean anything from making out to having sex, and everyone gains some social status from being able to say they "hooked up."
Cronin tries to help her students see that it's braver – and ultimately better – to get to know a person before becoming physically intimate with them, something the hook-up culture gets backwards.
"They don't build great habits for marriage and family. It's easy to let someone see your body. It's hard to let someone see you," she said.
Harrington said she was "shocked" at the amount of pressure on college kids to be very physical in relationships, "and I think that carries over when you get out of college, this pressure to fit in."
"I knew it was there and it's not a new thing, and technology has just made it easier," she added.
Cronin said that while the hook-up culture is prevalent, she's found that most students are unhappy with that status quo and are looking for a way out.
(Story continues below)
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"They want the way out but nobody's offering it to them," she said.
That's why the rules for her dating assignment are so important, she noted. It's not that she wants to return to the 1950s or some other bygone era, she added, but there are good things to be gleaned from these "dating scripts" of yesteryear.
"The rules are to help you so that you know what you're doing," Cronin said. "You're not asking someone on an uber romantic date, this isn't a candlelit dinner with violins and flowers, this is just a cup of coffee, just to see."
She put together the "rules" from what she remembered of her own days of dating, as well as advice from friends and feedback from students who have done the assignment, Cronin said.
The students, she added, welcome the dating guidance.
"I am amazed at how much this generation of young adults wants coaching in all areas of their life," she said. "They are hungry for coaching, and they responded so well to these rules I was amazed. In some ways I have no idea why they would do this, but then they do and they're happy and they want people to help them navigate situations where they need to be brave."