By Brittney Matthews | Photo Editor
The “ring by spring” culture at Christian universities has become an unspoken requisite that places unnecessary pressure on students, scrambles perceptions of marriage and can distract from students’ studies.
“Ring by spring” is the cultural norm for Christian universities where students get engaged to a significant other before they graduate from college. You say the term at any Christian college and it is instantly recognized.
Stacy Keogh George, assistant professor of sociology at Whitworth University, conducted research on the “ring by spring” culture on Christian campuses and how exactly it came to be. George asked students from a Christian university with a size of 2,500 undergraduates to participate in a survey that asked about their marital status and what their views on dating culture were.
“While students and faculty may joke about the marriage-obsessed ring by spring culture, it dispenses a social psychological burden that follows students, particularly women, throughout their undergraduate experience,” George said.
The sources of pressure vary with the identified groups being peers, family, church and society in general. Based on George’s findings, it also seems that women feel more pressure than men to get married, and there is a correlation of more pressure being felt the more students go to church.
I am the daughter of a pastor so I can attest to this pressure greatly. It was set into my mind early on that I am supposed to date to marry, and that marrying someone is a key stage of life that I can’t miss out on. There is constant pressure to find someone so I can give my parents grandchildren and not be alone my whole life, as if marriage is the only way I can be happy.
My parents have done a great job raising me, but these notions that have been set in stone are difficult to overcome as my idea of success and my parents’ idea of success vary greatly. I believe that happiness and success is not found in marriage, but in doing what I love and doing it to give glory to God. Community can be found in so many other places than a significant other.
Coming to Baylor has amplified these pressures and skewed ideas of what success looks like. Baylor University’s associate chaplain and director of worship and chapel, Ryan Richardson, gave Baylor’s perspective of the “ring by spring” culture in an interview with The Chronicle.
“At Baylor University, administrators don’t push the ‘ring by spring’ idea,” Richardson said. “Marriage isn’t about the feelings of elation one feels when engaged. Rather, it’s about two individuals knowing each other intimately, which can occasionally create conflict.”
Baylor used to have an engaged-couples program offered once a semester, but it was discontinued after student interest in the program began to decline. Despite the program being discontinued, the “ring by spring” culture is still thriving on campus. There is the superstition of the “DTR” green and gold benches around campus where couples are known to sit to discuss the stages in their relationship. The superstition is that if you sit on a bench with the same person three times, that will be the person you marry.
I’m not sure if the social pressure to marry at Christian universities can ever be erased completely, but the universities can do a better job of addressing it. I think Baylor should reinstitute their couple program so that the engagements and marriages that do happen can be more successful. Offering classes about the different perspectives of marriage and success would also help educate students and widen their views and perspectives on the topic. It needs to be communicated to students that success and happiness are not determined by marriage.