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IAP Activity of the Week

Charm School Returns

By Katie Allen

Charm School, an IAP event started in January 1993, continues its annual tradition this year. The event, which includes classes on various social graces, was started by former Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs Travis R. Meritt in response to complaints and stereotypes that MIT students, faculty, and staff lack style, manners, and etiquette. IAP Charm School has received past attention from local and national media, including The Boston Globe, The New York Times, CNN, and Good Morning America.

Charm School 2000 will be held Lobbies 7, 10, and 13 from 12:00 to 5:00 p.m. on January 27. Students can attend classes in various charming activities, including ballroom dancing, formal-dinner table manners, flirting and dating, and communications etiquette.

Wide range of classes adds charm

New classes this year include “road respect,” a class designed to help prevent road rage, “courteous cycling,” a class for bicyclers on how to share the road/sidewalk, a class called “Dealing with the people you really need in life,” (a class on tipping and politeness taught by Brent Michael Kauffman, Executive Host at Ciao Bella Restaurant) and “don’t be caught clueless,” a class, taught by MIT students Catherine B. Chen ’02 and Ian M. McCreery ’01 on laundry and other essential college-life etiquette.

Says Chen, “This class teaches basic life skills that many MIT students come here without. I mean, I know people who have thrown away a perfectly good pair of pants just because a button fell off. This is ridiculous. Besides, when you see people with pink or blue shirts, you know what happened, and it is embarrassing.”

Classes are repeated throughout the day, and no pre-registration or commitment is required: students can take as many or as few classes as they wish. According to co-organizer Heather Trickett, “The purpose of Charm School is to teach life skills that are disappearing, not only from colleges, but from high schools and homes as well. It’s a good way to learn the etiquette that older people consider vital, but younger people rarely learn.”

Students earn degrees in charm

The culmination of the event is the Charm School commencement ceremony, where students who have taken 6, 8, or 12 charm classes can earn (respectively) a Bachelors, Masters, or Doctorate in Charm. Previous commencement ceremonies have featured the Chorallaries, MIT’s coed a capella group, as well as speakers ranging from Miss Manners (Judith Martin) to President Vest.

This year, Charm School organizers plan to hold opening ceremonies at noon, with a performance by the Logarhythms, and a presentation, called “Who Wants to be a Charminaire” with Jay Keyser. Door prizes will be given away to both Charm Graduates and other participants, including gift certificates to various local restaurants and retailers. The Commencement ceremonies will again feature the Chorallaries, as well as “Dean of Charm” Travis R. Merritt.