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)


  1. I took my last child to Berkeley in 1981 and knowing I had a long drive back to San Luis Obispo I asked where the ladies room was. I walked in and 3 young men were standing at a urinal. I apologized and asked where the ladies room was. They simply pointed to a couple of booths next to the urinals. I was in a state of shock! I then realized the dorm rooms were also mixed and relunctantly left my last child in this den of sin. She had seen a lot of naked actors as I did costumes at home and understood the facts of life and I kissed her goodbye and managed to make it home.

    Both my girls attended mixed dorms their first couple of years in the University and they seemed to survive. I, on the other hand was a basket case. I got over it.

  2. Snow

    Hmmm, I lived in a mixed college at uni in Australia, 15 years ago! Each student had a room to themselves which doesn’t seem to be the case in US universities but is the norm in Australian universities, but levels and bathrooms are shared by men and women. That was the first time I ever had a conversation with a naked female peer over a shower stall wall. (Well she could have been showering fully clothed, I couldnt see.)

  3. Unicorn

    Does CMU also plan to start a day nursery for the occasional dividend from the “opposite-sex” roommate plan? Would there be an extra fee for this or is it included in tuition?

  4. Theresa

    “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.”

    CMU students ought to be given a break because they work hard and ought to be allowed the decision of who to live with. Fun is definitely not the best word to describe a CMU student’s time on campus.

  5. Nat Hooper

    what do you expect in an age where gal teens dress and act like whores?

    Sadly we’re following civilizations of the past that decayed within…and vanished.

    I’m afraid the Muslim’s view of our morality is pretty close to the truth.

    NOTE: My only relation to the “Hooper” in CAIR is a feeling of contempt.

  6. JimZ

    Adults over 18 but under 21 can die in war, vote, get a credit card, file for bankruptcy, but they can’t be trusted to drink alcohol, have sex, or even room with the opposite sex in college dorms. They can’t even rent a car until they’re 21.

    I personally am not so much for this mixed college dorm rooming but the statement:

    “I find it shocking that these young people are allowed so much freedom in this modern era”

    I find it shocking that you think they have much freedom. I don’t see ANY of us having much freedom anymore. Social permissiveness may be loosening up but freedom may be an incorrect term to use for this.

    I am in my mid-40’s but what I see is major clampdowns on the freedom of these 18-21 year-olds.

    Police departments all over the suburbs of America staff up “underage drinking party patrols” that just go around trying to bust teens having parties. Even in Lawrence, Kansas, a very traditional college party town, the cops constantly look to bust students for parties and drinking. They USED to NOT do that so much, and when I grew up, the cops didn’t bust teen/college parties unless there were complaints. Now they’re out “trolling”.

    Freedom: in the eye of the beholder

  7. PonderingItAll

    I suspect having a woman or two living in their dorm suite will have a great civilizing influence on a lot of those young men. I have some experience with student living situations, both as a student at a great party school and as a landlord renting to students.

    A group of male students can do horrendous damage, accumulate mountains of filth, and talk each other into deadly stunts. Kind of like prehuman cave-dwellers with a midden heap of rotting garbage out front. Most of the girls seem to have higher standards!

  8. David Rosenberg

    When I met my wife to be, she was attending college. I had been in the Navy, never attending college. The school was over 100 miles away from where I lived. Every Friday after work, I made the trip to her school, spending the weekends with her. From the very first weekend it was assumed by both of us, I would sleep in her room at the college. She had a female roommate, with nothing said, she moved out on the weekends. The last year of my girls college stay, she and Seven (7) of her friends rented a house off campus. Sleeping arrengements remaind the same. Each had their own bedroom, if they could be called bedrooms. None were any bigger but, to have a bed, chest of drawers, one chair and closet, anything else just wouldn’t fit. For most of the year, I was the only male on the weekends. There was the occasional guest but, no other permanent male. After a few months, I began to feel awkward being the only male spending the weekends. I began to think, what did the other girls think of me and my girl, being the only sinners among them. I had the chance on one day, able to speak to one of the other girls and asked her, how she looked upon my being there? She said, no one felt anything one way or another.

    This took place in the early 70s, I took it for granted, my situation was not unusual at any other college in the the country. Today, I hear about colleges making a policy to have co-ed dorms. When I hear this, I assume either students were not sharing rooms or they were and the school was now making it okay, since the students were doing it anyway. I haven’t seen any comments from students, telling of what arrengements are, at colleges today.