Nerds gone wild


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Carnegie Mellon University, perhaps the finest academic institution in Pittsburgh and one of the best in the nation, has announced that it will allow opposite-sex students to share rooms under a pilot program in the fall.

Being a leading member of the fuddy-duddy community, I am against it, as this could start a new trend — already roughly 30 schools, private and public, are said to have some form of gender-neutral housing.

I find it shocking that these young people are allowed so much freedom in this modern era. Freedom is a precious right and should only be encouraged in countries that we invade and lay waste. At home, it merely causes people to become too free and easy.

My view is that people of all ages should behave and dress modestly, perhaps in head-to-toe garments impregnable to romantic overtures at all times. In the good old days, members of opposite sexes lived in separate digs patrolled by guard dogs and the cold showers ran non-stop.

Those were the days when a social stigma was attached to “living in sin.” But young people are so bored and blase these days that they really do not know how to sin like we old-timers did. Why, they can’t even be bothered to sneak around and commit sins. How can they feel any shame? They haven’t worked hard enough to deserve it — haven’t so much as distracted a guard dog.

But according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story, this housing program isn’t about promoting sex (which would be unnecessary anyway given the fine job of promotion done by the mass media).

No, it is meant to enable students to choose the best roommate situation. Some are gay and perhaps don’t want distractions. In other cases, the young men and women are just friends.

Well, I have mixed feelings about that. It seems to me that if you are going to live in sin, it shows great contempt for tradition not to actually sin if you have the opportunity.

And pity their poor parents, who will worry because they assume their kids are doing “it,” only to be concerned about whether they are normal when they learn the “it” the kids are doing is freshman calculus. (Not that there’s anything wrong with doing calculus.)

That brings me to another concern. Carnegie Mellon is a school for brainiacs, as evidenced by the fact that it is not easy to gain admission there. This year, CMU had a record 22,052 applications for 1,360 freshmen places.

Of course, it would be hurtful and wrong to suggest that all Carnegie Mellon students are nerds. Still, if I were a young nerd about town instead of the handsome mature man of action that I am, I reckon I could do worse than be a CMU student.

As it happens, I saw lots of likely suspects for nerd-dom when I was in the neighborhood last week, at least until I was escorted off campus for failing the random visitor IQ test.

Unfair or not, my fear is that nerdy kids at Carnegie Mellon might put aside writing computer language for the space program and attempt to brush up their knowledge of biology in the privacy of their own dormitories. This is wrong. Nerds should not be having love affairs with other nerds. There is always the danger that in the throes of nerd passion, their thick glasses will collide or else they will drop heavy laptops onto vulnerable body parts.

Quite part from that, it is nature’s plan that smart people take partners who aren’t quite as swift and need help with their gene pool so that the human race advances uniformly. That is what my wife did. Heck, that is what Laura Bush did.

Now don’t go thinking that I am just down on young people, especially the few smart ones among them who attend Carnegie Mellon. Old coots long out of school should similarly keep to their own quarters unless they have formally taken the oath to love, honor, obey and accept all criticism.

Yet lots of old people do live together for reasons of convenience and not sin, fairly assuming that it is not a sin to use each other as human hot-water bottles on the colder nights.

So perhaps we fuddy-duddies should just concede that in a free country in 2007, adults should be able to choose to live together for whatever reason. Perhaps we ought give the kids a break, too, especially as those Carnegie Mellon kids aren’t kids at all but adults, even if it drives us crazy that they are having so much fun.

(Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail rhenry(at)