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Students Discover Charm and Grace

By Shang-Lin Chuang and Christina Chu
Staff Reporters

A group of students drifted down the Infinite Corridor yesterday, some walking in a seductive "slither," some in a relaxed "saunter," and some in a bubbly "flounce." These creative walkers were taking part in a class aimed at teaching walking, offered at the Institute's fourth annual Charm School.

Charm School was founded by Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Travis R. Merritt. The self-proclaimed "Dean of Charm" founded the school because he was tired of hearing the generalization that MIT people can't function socially. Charm School has always been held during the Independent Activities Period.

Charm School is meant to be a lot of fun. For some, it is more jovial than serious, said Christian M. Klein G, who taught a class about clothing statement. Everyone should come out and do it at least once while they are here at the Institute, preferably every year, she said.

The four hours of classes and seminars in the afternoon concluded with an evening commencement ceremony and the presentation of diplomas. Speaker and writer Dan Zevin gave the commencement address.

Embarrassing questions answered

Charm School is "great because I learned how to deal with embarrassing questions like, `How do you tell somebody that his/her zipper is down?'" said Charm School student Wenhua Li G.

"This is the only thing you can do for free at MIT," said Elizabeth A. Schave G. "I wanted to earn a PhD in an hour and it looked easy."

"If nothing else, it is very fun to watch," said Delroy A.Y. Ying '97. "I have been meaning to attend since I have been here, but Ijust never got around to it. I learned that how you walk is based on how you feel."

"I attended the `How to Tell a Joke' class because I have bombed with my jokes in the past so I figured I need some help," said Jimmy M. Hsu G.

"I want the students to have a sense of what makes a joke funny and what makes humor work," said jokes class instructor Jeff Bigler. "They then can feel more confident."

"Walking is a favorite form of MIT locomotion," said Merritt, who taught the walking class. "MIT students use what I call the efficient `Institute scuttle,' with their heads down, no eye contact, and no motion except from the knee down."Students are constantly in a hurry and walk in a utilitarian method, Merritt said. "I am confident that we can stamp out the `Institute scuttle' in our life time."

"There are things to avoid, such as flailing body motion," said Dhaya Lakshminarayanan '96, who taught a class on body language. She gesticulated with her arms to demonstrate what she meant: "These are unattractive and unbecoming. Try to remain poised."

James J. Mahoney, assistant host in the president's office, taught a class on proper table manners, entitled "It's Alimentary at Manners Cafe."

"I'm fascinated by the hype. Since I work in food service, this is something I don't understand -- the misunderstanding of what tools to use at dinner," Mahoney said. "It's fun to see people so eager to learn, and be so conscious about what I have found so obvious. "

Students learned how to enjoy their elevator ride in a class on elevator etiquette taught by Eleanor P. Crawford of undergraduate education and student affairs.

To properly enjoy an elevator ride, students should make eye contact and offer to select a floor for other riders, Crawford said. The big no-nos of elevator riding include entering the elevator before all others have exited, standing near the doors when exiting at the last floor, and taking the elevator for one floor.

Big shots buttered

Institute big shot Glenn P. Strehle (vice president for finance and treasurer) taught the class on "Buttering Up Big Shots." Strehle advised that student "don't just stand there. You need to take the initiative to develop a meaningful relationship with an important person. Think about what you want to communicate to the other person."

It's important to make connections with important people because doors open to those who have good relations, said class instructor Marcia K. McNutt of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.

At a class entitled,"Electronic Mail and Communications," Vivek Pandit G made clear a fine point of etiquette. "When people ask me to leave them voice mail, they really mean don't call them. You can leave them voice mail with out calling them on the phone. It's a way of saying don't disturb me, and it took me a while to figure out."

To graduate, students were handed coupons at each class's booth after they passed the subject, which usually only required participation. Six coupons earned a Charm School Bachelor's Degree, eight earned a master's, and 12 coupons earned a PhD.

Speaker address `entry-level'

Among the myriad of exaggerated ideas on how one should live after college, Charm School commencement speaker Dan Zevin included topics such as finding "entry-level" living space, creating an "entry-level" resume, and pursuing "entry-level" dating in the real world.

Zevin, writer of Entry-Level Life: A Complete Guide to Masquerading as a Member of the Real World, humored the audience with witty and insightful comments on entry level life after college.

"Imagine that you're not at MIT anymore, and that you've left your spotless record behind you. This is a life where you wake up before the sun sets" and the calendar doesn't revolve around September and May, Zevin said.

"The key after college is that you just pretend you know what you're doing" and dress for stress," Zevin said.

Fabrication and exaggeration will help to make jobs sound wildly important on your resume, Zevin said. "Act as a liaison between soapy water and dishes" for a dish washing position, he said.

As for entry-level meal plans, "there's no more cafeteria after college," he said. "On the one hand you don't have to eat the slop but on the other hand you have to start cooking for yourself."

Therefore, an entry level chicken would be a half-cooked chicken in a microwave, Zevin said.