NEWS

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April 1, 2011

Hookups site gets around, draws national attention

Anyone hoping for a romantic rendezvous in the Regenstein bookstacks may be disappointed to find their secret blown­­­­­­­­­-by Jay Leno, no less.

EduHookups, which began in February as UChicagoHookups, an online outlet for U of C students to seek out casual sex with their peers, has undergone a meteoric expansion spanning a half-dozen college campuses, with even more coming soon. And the media have taken notice.

In the beginning, only students with a valid U of C email address could gain access to the site. Since then, however, a number of colleges and universities from around the country have sought EduHookups’ services.

Chicago-area universities were the first to express interest in joining the website, according to its founder, who prefers for privacy reasons to go by his online moniker Thiskid2000. Columbia College and Northwestern University led the way, followed shortly by DePaul University, Loyola University Chicago, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

“We had a lot of e-mail requests from Northwestern,” Thiskid2000 said. “I’m not sure exactly how they heard of us, but any publicity is good publicity.”

The site hasn’t gotten just any publicity, however. The Huffington Post and the Chicago Tribune both have picked up on EduHookups’ apparently novel idea to create a college-only forum for personal ads, and even Jay Leno has lampooned the site on The Tonight Show: “Students at the University of Chicago have created a website that lets them hook up with other students for casual sex. Now why? We already have a place where students can hook up for casual sex—it’s called ‘college.’”

Leno be damned, EduHookups is showing no sign of slowing down, with Washington University in St. Louis and the Rhode Island School of Design, as well as Ivy-Leaguers Brown and Yale, scheduled to gain access within the next few days.

And though U of C students comprise the largest source of the site’s personal ads, the newcomers are swiftly catching up. Since Monday, Northwestern, DePaul, and Columbia students have posted seven ads apiece to U of C’s 15, and Loyola students have posted two.

The ads also offer an indication that the site is maturing in addition to growing. Early postings were filled with innuendos and puns (“let’s integrate our curves,” one March 3 ad proposes), and the site’s image as a legitimate tool might have suffered as a result.

“I just think it’s really funny. I think it’s a huge joke,” said second-year Akashaya Kannan, who first read about the site in the Maroon when it was still UChicagoHookups.

“I sort of wondered if people were going to make use of it,” said third-year Kelvin Ho, who encountered the site on Facebook.

Neither Ho nor Kannan has used the site or know anyone who has, though they also had no knowledge of the site’s expansion-or of the increasingly serious tone of its ads. Many of the recent posts include either measurements or some other act of earnest self-description. One male U of C ad reads: “I am a former grad student, 29, white, 6 ft, very fit. Highly successful entrepreneur.”

EduHookups has also split its personals listing into three sections—“casuals,” “serious,” and “platonic.” The vast majority of posts remain in the “casuals” section, something Thiskid2000 said “is a testament to what college students want these days.” Still, there have been 11 “serious” ads since last Friday, of which most lack the kind of raunchy language found in the original site.

So far, Thiskid2000 has been able to cope with the increase in through-traffic his site has received.

“From a technical standpoint, we’ve done a pretty comprehensive review of our code, and it looks to be solid,” he said, explaining that he originally had some doubts about whether the site would be able to handle the increased demand from considerably larger universities, like DePaul, which boasts over 25,000 undergraduates.

Thiskid2000 has also managed to expand his staff and even attract a few advertisers to the site, though he said that the revenue from advertisements will go mostly to finding a new domain.

“The amount that we’ve made is barely enough to cover hosting costs,” he said.

Before the site expanded, Thiskid2000 expressed legal concerns about UChicagoHookups’ relationship with the University’s Administration. He has since met with Assistant Vice President for Student Life Elaine Daugherty, and though he declined to discuss the details of the meeting, he is confident that, now more than ever, the site is wholly independent of the U of C.

Daugherty was unable to be reached.

Despite his anonymity, Thiskid2000 said his site’s new-found celebrity has, “Just been incredible. It’s a once-in-a-life experience.”

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