The Worst First Date Spots on Campus

Take your O-Week crush to these places on campus…but only if you want to ruin your chances of scoring a second date.


Ratner Athletics Center

Let’s be honest, Ratner is a breeding ground for insecurities (and germs).

By Sabrina Chang, Arts Reporter

This article has been adapted and updated from a previous version published in February 2022.

O-Week introduces the freshman class to the UChicago community and its longstanding traditions through events and activities that foster new bonds, memories, and of course, situationships. Lucky for you, UChicago is widely known for its neo-Gothic architecture, sprawling quadrangles, and duck-inhabited Botany Pond that meld into an oasis perfect for a picturesque first date. Yet there are also spots that are…well… not so picturesque. Take your crush to the next level by NOT planning a date at these cringe and cliché campus spots: then maybe you can be the first O-Week situationship to last longer than two weeks.

“Quick lunch at the dining hall”

I actually quite enjoy dining hall food. Bartlett’s zesty guacamole-topped Chipotle bowls, Baker’s buttery, cheese-infused pasta bar, and Cathey’s endless assortment of rich, sugary desserts make for some pretty solid meals—and they’re “free” too. But that’s the issue; it doesn’t seem like an actual date. From the moment you each tap your ID card against the plexiglass-protected sensor, you are just two UChicago students grabbing a quick bite before you rush off to your Principles of Microeconomics class, not O-Week crushes on a cute first date.

It’s not just the bill either, it’s the whole atmosphere. UChicago’s inescapable blackletter font embellished on maroon sweatshirts and sweatpants everywhere you turn. Bursts of laughter and the latest sorority gossip heard a mile away. Roommates and friends “discreetly” stalking your date and sending photos to you of yourself from three tables over. Don’t even get me started on the narrow wooden tables and musty gym vibes of Bartlett or the long community tables at Woodlawn that scream elementary school cafeteria. Dining hall meals are great for couples who are already dating, but that doesn’t mean it counts as an actual date—especially not a first date. Please, just take them somewhere nicer.

“Reg study sesh”  

Let’s start with the outer appearance. Some might say it gives Max Palevsky a run for its money for the title of “ugliest building on campus.” Honestly, I don’t think it’s that ugly, it’s just…eerie looking. The cold, colorless stone coated with what looks like black mold and the lack of windows gives off prison vibes—not exactly what I would picture for a cute post-O-Week date. You might be thinking: “It’s a great way to get to know each other better while also getting some work done.” But there is also simply no place you could go inside that would make it a fun, get-to-know-each other type of date. We are UChicago students. We are literally known for studying hard, and a date in the Reg would probably just feel unproductive and tragically prove that UChicago *is* in fact where “fun goes to die.”

But let’s say you make the trek up to the tables on the fourth floor under the impression that you will both get some work done. Silence. That is how your date will go. Well, unless you would rather whisper loudly to each other about your favorite color and then end up getting blasted on the UChicago Secrets Facebook page. Alternatively, you could stay downstairs and enjoy the romantic rush of excitement from students cramming for their fourth midterm and chugging Ex Lib coffee. Or, you could even get a little fancy and book a study room so that you can sit in even more awkward silence while students pass by and peer through the window every five minutes to check if the room is open. Point is, study sessions together are great, but maybe get to know each other first so that it isn’t awkward and you can actually be productive together. Oh, and for the love of Joseph Regenstein, please don’t make out in the stacks.

“Partner workout at Ratner”

Let’s be honest, Ratner is a breeding ground for insecurities (and germs). Floor to ceiling mirrors capture your every move, “gym bros” slam their massive weights down as if mocking your puny dumbbells, and the machines dare you to figure out their unnecessarily complicated instructions, though you know full-well you probably never will. Society has conditioned us to think that it is embarrassing if we can’t lift a lot or don’t know how to perform an exercise properly. Going on a “workout date” may only heighten those insecurities, especially because you might feel as if your date is judging you despite trying to impress them. You and your partner having different workout plans and experience levels will only contribute to the stress, as one of you may strain your body while trying to keep up while the other feels like they must decrease their intensity. Much like the idea of a Reg study date, it’s ineffective and awkward.

Plus, exercising is “you time;” it’s when you work on your physical health, but it also serves as a mental escape from the clutter of life’s endeavors. Working out with a partner, especially on what is labeled as a “date,” will likely steer your focus away from yourself and take away the refreshing aspect of working out. It may also feel pretty uncomfortable, as working out can be a pretty intimate experience and you and your date are probably not at that stage yet (and Ratner’s not exactly the ideal place for a game of 20 questions). Verdict? Save the date for a restaurant, not the weight room.

“Invite-only frat party”

“It’s invite-only…but I can get you in.” Ah yes, just what every girl wants to hear. Sure, there will be music and free drinks, but that’s about where the appeal ends. Imagine trying to initiate small talk at a frat party, especially during O-Week, when it gets so crowded that there are more people stuck outside than in the actual house. I imagine it going something like this: “So what’s your major?” “What?” “What’s your major?” “What?” “What’s your—” “You wanna get drinks?” The number of times this exact conversation has happened is probably much higher than you think. Trying to scream in your partner’s ear in the midst of an earthquake of heavy bass music and dirt-streaked Air Forces is basically impossible. There is simply no space for actual talking; in fact, there’s just no space at all. Sure, you can try to dance with your partner, but with the sheer number of bodies less than an inch away from you, you are practically just stuck in a constant mosh pit the whole night. Plus, the police scare and resulting chaos and shoving in the coat room (which, beware, becomes a free lost and found) doesn’t strike me as particularly fun either. On the bright side, at least you get to keep the sentimental souvenir of spilled beer in your hair and sweat that isn’t yours all over your body.

“Chill in my dorm”

Last and certainly least…just don’t.