The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

30 September 2007

Revenge of the nerds

From the Department of Bad Ideas, Pacific Northwest division, comes this stinker:

Most of you are aware that over the summer a PR class conducted a study on the [Washington State U. Linux Users Group]. They felt, and I'm sure many of you agree, that the group could use an improved image. We've also been asked by the CS department to try and increase our female membership in the hopes that this will translate into increased female enrollment in the department.

The PR group offered a suggestion for that. They think that we should hold a social with a sorority.

Not that you'd expect anything better from PR types. But it gets worse:

We're going to host a nerd auction. You can buy a nerd and he'll fix your computer, help you with stats homework, or if you're really adventurous, take you to dinner!

The problem is that we're all still nerds. Let's face it, guys. If anyone's going to bid on us, we'll need some spicing up. And who better to help with that than sorority girls who like nothing better than a makeover?

Leave no stereotype unused, I always say. And there's this:

[A] lot of people are mistaking this as a feeble attempt to "get nerds laid by sorority members." Although I can't speak for the motivations of the individuals on the block, as far as the organization of the event, this couldn't be further from the truth. Think about it. We are nerds. We know how to calculate return on investment.

I've done some accounting in my day, and I can't figure out how to make this add up. Neither can Terry, apparently:

If not to "get nerds laid," then what is the purpose of spending "thousands of dollars" for this event? The idea that this man auction is going to bring women into the CS programs is offensive on a couple of levels. If the men get cleaned up and made over by sorority women, other women will change their career path to be close to them? Buy a man to take care of your computer? Any geek woman who might be interested in majoring in CS is probably fixing her own, thank you very much. Switch majors or join a club because of a dinner date? Get real. And finally, if women aren't in the CS program, it's not because they are unaware of it.

I'm a little more forgiving, but only a little. The auction, in and of itself, seems fairly innocuous; it's the idea that it's going to be an Agent of Incredible Change that is ludicrous. Terry again:

If they really want to help women explore a career in science, this isn't the way to go about it. If they want to use sorority members to up their own status and maybe attain the dream of dating one, they need to be honest about that, if only to themselves. A hallmark of true geekdom is self-awareness. Maybe that's the difference between geeks and nerds.

Not to mention dorks.

Posted at 7:20 PM to Table for One


The auction idea is pretty silly. Personally, I think trying to get women to become CS majors on a college level is a little too late. (Well, it's never too late to do anything, but it does get more difficult.) People should try to get girls interested in science at a grade school level first.

Posted by: sya at 9:59 PM on 30 September 2007