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Wednesday, Dec 1, 2021

Proctor Crush Lists go virtual through senior computer science project

<a href="" rel="attachment wp-att-55382"></a> <span class="photocreditinline"><a href="">Benjy Renton</a></span><br />“Proc Crush Lists” typically adorn the bulletin boards in Proctor Dining Hall at the end of the spring semester.
Benjy Renton
“Proc Crush Lists” typically adorn the bulletin boards in Proctor Dining Hall at the end of the spring semester.

In typical years, it is tradition for seniors to cover the bulletin board at the entrance to Proctor Dining Hall with the names of the crushes they have had over their four years at Middlebury. The so-called “Proc Crush List” was initiated by a graduating senior, Jason Lockhart, in 2005. For Thomas Tarantino ’21 and David Gikoshvili ’21, this year has provided the perfect opportunity for their capstone Computer Science project: a virtual form of crush lists. 

Despite its name, the original crush list tradition began in Ross Dining Hall, followed by a few nomadic years, before the lists finally found a permanent home in Proctor. 

Unsurprisingly, amid the drama of such a public crush list, issues of privacy and respect have come up over the years. Students have raised concerns about the predatory undertones of seniors including underclassmen on their lists, and the fact that students are unable to consent to having their names displayed publicly on the bulletin board. 

Tarantino and Gikoshvili saw the perfect opportunity to reimagine the “Proc Crush List” in a new format that kept those ethical concerns in mind. Their crush list website, The Panther Crush, allows all seniors to participate and tries to solve the privacy issues of the previous “Proc Crush List.” The crush lists will not be listed publicly — seniors will only be able to list the names of other seniors, and students will be notified when someone who is on their crush list also lists them. 

Tarantino and Gikoshvili’s website will launch on May 10 at go/crush.

“The Panther Crush is built by students to enhance two simple aspects of traditional crush lists: privacy and respect,” the platform reads. “We don’t share your list with anyone, so no one sees your list and you don’t see anyone else’s. This relieves the pressure of putting up a crush list in a public space.” 

With the added benefit of allowing participation by remote seniors who might be returning for in-person graduation, Tarantino and Gikoshvili are hoping that the timeline they have constructed will foster new connections in students’ final days at Middlebury. After the Panther Crush launches on May 10, students will have one week to fill out their crush list and will be notified of any matches by May 18. This will give students 11 days to reach out before graduation on May 29. 

In addition to conversations with other seniors, one source of inspiration for Tarantino and Gikoshvili’s Panther Crush List was the virtual crush lists of peer colleges. According to Tarantino, incorporating ideas from the “Bowdoin Loop,” Tufts’ “Jumbo Smash” and Williams’ “Ephmatch” was helpful in imagining the Panther Crush List. And for Gikoshvili, a key difference between the Panther Crush List and other schools’ lists is the Panther Crush List’s emphasis on romantic crushes or friend crushes.

“We’re trying to have people connect with all those people they’ve admired from afar,” he said.

Designing and coding the crush list algorithm from start to finish has not come without its challenges. Tarantino says many small problems and logistical considerations have come up along the way, such as whether it is better for students to submit their crushes’ first and last names, or just their email address. 

For Gikoshvili and Tarantino, the Panther Crush list feels like a fitting way to wrap up their Middlebury academic careers. “There is no better way to finish the [computer science] major,” Gikoshvili said.

Maggie Reynolds

Maggie Reynolds '24 is a local editor.

Maggie previously served as a staff writer, frequently covering local  businesses and the political climate on campus. She interned as a  reporter at the Daily Gazette in Schenectady, NY this past summer.

Maggie intends to study History and Spanish, with a possible minor in  Political Science. She is also a member of the Women's Swimming and  Diving team. Maggie enjoys hiking, exploring swimming holes, and  watching Mamma Mia.