The Mating Call of the Wide-Eyed Freshman

"Okay, listen, you bring the wall-length mirror and I'll bring the porta-bar and we can turn our room into a dance studio. You do dance, don't you?"

"My parents are letting me take one of the Van Goghs and the two Monets. I hope you're not into Realism, or anything so tacky as Peter Max prints or Linda Ronstadt posters."

"What do you mean you don't have a stereo? I don't have a stereo either. How are we going to live at college without a stereo? Everybody at college has a stereo."

Unless you've been in Nepal or Bali all summer, you've probably already had this conversation. If you're anal, you've compared record collections and weeded out the doubles so no one catches you with two copies of "Mel Torme's Greatest Hits." And you've probably heard this part of the conversation, too:

"I'm six feet, dark hair, broad shoulders, tan complexion, blue eyes, strong as a bull. Let's put it this way: I look like that guy in the shirt ads, but without the eye patch."



"I'm kind of hard to describe. I guess you could say I'm non-descript. Sort of gray all over. My eyes and teeth, too. I don't have much personality either. You probably won't want to spend much time with me, but that's okay. I'm used to it."

Things are never as bad as they seem, however. Sometimes they are worse. But, come rain or shine, coke or gin, Marlboros or Lucky Strikes, guys or girls, you're pretty much stuck with that name on the computer print-out with the long-distance phone number and the address in Summit, New Jersey 07901.

And you're probably wondering how you got that name, or that set of names in the mail: roommates from New Orleans, Anchorage and Foxborough, Mass. Or from Denver, Seattle and Newton, Mass. Or from New York, New York and New York.

Susan W. Lewis, the associate dean of Freshmen, says the whole process of pairing roommates began last June when the six senior advisers (see box) sat down to read your rooming application, your admission application, and anything else you might have sent them (postcards, tapes, money).

They assemble in the second floor conference room of the Freshman Dean's Office--that red house on Prescott St.--and begin to slog through the thousands of documents. They take batches of 25, and armed with a notepad, pencil and lots of coffee, scribble notes on nearly every incoming freshman. First they divide the rooming applications into two piles--smokers and non-smokers--which is often the only rooming preference students have. They then divide the piles again according to the room size each student requested (single, double, triple, etc.). The reading process take about three and a half weeks.

Then they begin to mix and match without being "utterly provocative." They link most students by interests, though they're careful not to overdo it. "We don't want Bach societies," Lewis says, although inevitably a roommate group's interests will sometimes be remarkably similar. Several years ago, the advisers put three fledgling ornithologists in a suite that was fondly known as the "bird room."

The matching process in the Freshman Dean's Office looks andsoundslike a miniature stock market floor. "I have a musician who likes to sleep with the window open," someone will call out, hoping to hear, "I have a composer who likes to sleep with the window open and eat Doritos." Slam. Those two folders get clipped together and the advisers move on.

Aside from tubercular pleas--"Please don't put me with a smoker"--students are rarely idiosyncratic. A few know whom they want to room with, some request a new or old building, but most are not familiar enough with the Yard to ask for a particular dorm. Race is rarely a problem either. While the senior advisers can hardly be color-blind--you put a photograph on the rooming application, remember? --they only occasionally consider race as a determining factor. They never get demands to keep any particular race out of a room, though a Black applicant who hopes to live in a quad may write, "It would be nice if one other person in the room were Black."

The photographs play little role in the matching process. Appearance is not important to the advisers; they simply want to have an idea of what their future proctees will look like.

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