Johns Hopkins Magazine -- September 1997
Johns Hopkins Magazine


E D I T O R' S    N O T E

Reconcilable Differences

As the final days of July melted humidly into August here in Baltimore, Joe Goodman and his staff at Homewood's student housing office had shifted into overdrive. Their task: matching up roommates among the 930-plus freshmen who would be descending upon campus by month's end. This being the computer age, Goodman et al. were helped along in their quest for roomie compatibility by a software program that matched responses from the lifestyle survey that all incoming freshmen are asked to fill out. On the survey are statements like: I plan to keep my room: a) Neat (everything put away), b) Moderately neat (straighten up at the end of the day), c) Messy (clothes on the floor); and, My sleeping habits consist of going to bed: a) before 12 a.m. b)before 2 a.m., c) after 2 a.m.

The scientific nature of the process these days is laudable. I can only wonder how my life may have turned out differently had such technology existed 15 years ago at the small liberal arts school I attended. After meticulously filling out a survey similar to the one Hopkins uses, I arrived to find a freshman roommate whose native New Yorker brashness could not have been more different from my inborn reticence. While my musical tastes ran along the saccharine lines of Dan Fogelberg and Christopher Cross, she was a groupie of AC-DC and Van Halen--cranked at highest possible volume. I was up at 7 a.m. and in bed by 10 p.m., about the time her evening was just getting started. I averaged a date once a semester; she had guys calling every day.

At Hopkins, says Goodman, freshmen are prohibited from making room changes within the first six weeks of the semester. "First impressions might be that people don't think they can get along," he explains. How could such situations arise, given the fact that the numerical data points to compatibility? "A large percentage of freshmen have never lived away from home, so they really don't know what their living habits are," Goodman says. Normally, most roommate problems that seem irreconcilable initially wind up resolving themselves by the six-week mark. "We have many more cases that succeed than not," he says.

Which is what happened in my case. As the fall passed, I loosened up a bit, and Claire mellowed. By Thanksgiving I had invited her home to meet my parents; by Christmas we were making plans to room together as sophomores. Today she's an administrator at a college up the street, and we remain the best of friends.

With this issue we welcome new senior writer Joanne P. Cavanaugh. Joanne is a solid journalist, whose most recent daily newspaper experience includes four years at The Miami Herald. She's also a Hopkins alum: last May she earned her M.A. in literary nonfiction from The Writing Seminars, where she'll continue to teach. I'm excited about the fresh voice Joanne will bring to these pages, and am confident that she'll quickly gain a following among you, our readers.
Sue De Pasquale