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Charm School Teaches MIT Some Manners Over IAP

By Vijay Shilpiekandula

Nerds are aliens here. Geeks are unheard of. Societal protocols, manners and etiquette are child’s play. Thanks to Charm School, held last Friday, the students, staff and faculty of MIT are now models of poise and perfection.

MIT’s fun-filled way of honing interpersonal skills came back with a bang this year for yet another afternoon of vibrant activity. A crowded Student Center saw participants learn how to butter up big shots, negotiate their salaries in an interview, dress appropriately for a cousin’s wedding, and ask someone for a date.

“It’s silly, that’s why it’s there,” said Professor of Literature Travis R. Merritt, who nine years earlier founded this “nerdy carnival” to teach MIT students “how soup is eaten by moving the spoon away from the body.”

Students earn charm credits

“Call me Dr. Dr. Gray from now on”, quipped Tony Gray, a residential life associate and PhD, who was busy all afternoon teaching scholars how to choose “the appropriate punch to length ratio” while telling a joke. Gray had to rush through 12 other classes in the evening to receive his PhD in Charm.

Diplomas were awarded at the end of the day in the commencement ceremony, which featured performances by the Chorallaries and the MIT beaver. Six credits fetched a Bachelor’s degree, eight a Master’s, and twelve a PhD.

“A PhD in Charm sounds as nerdy as it can,” said Harsh Anand Verma G, who preferred to earn a Master’s degree instead. Verma, the proud owner of a certificate declaring him a “Master of Charm,” said he felt sorry for his roommates who would now have to bear all his nitpicking at the dining table.

Flirting 101: prime attraction

In this Charm School class, groups of men and women brainstormed to make a list of things that they do not like about the opposite sex.

The findings of this class ranged from something as flippant as “she giggles excessively 30 hours a day, 50 days a month, 20 months a year,” or “he bites his nails too often,” to something as profound as “he doesn’t look in the eye.”

There were complaints about the class nevertheless. “Don’t they have advanced classes [in Flirting]?,” enquired an enthused Suddhasattwa Sinha G. Sinha wondered if he could “choose this as my minor.”

Community enjoys change of pace

“MIT has six schools from now on,” declared President Charles M. Vest in his commencement address, emphasizing the significance Charm School acquired over the years.

“The curriculum will soon have an ‘effective communication’ requirement,” Vest said. “Charm is the ability to get an answer without asking any question.”

Vest said he hoped that the skills acquired at Charm School would help everyone sail through grueling thesis presentations at MIT.

“What’s most appealing is the fun of seeing many otherwise busy people cut loose,” said Hooria Komal ’04.

“It’s a nice relief,” said Mariana A. Recalde ’05. Recalde, who took her 18.02A finals that morning, and won the first prize (women’s) in the fun round of modeling held as part of the Fashion Show.