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Opinion

Housing lottery creates unnecessary drama

By Zachary Pilson '16

May 1, 2014

Tucked between students’ return back to campus and the upcoming final exams and papers, the housing lottery serves as a prime example of Hamilton’s over-bureaucratic nonsense adding unnecessary stress to students’ already hectic lives.  Res Life has created a system in which students must plan for any and all possible scenarios while constantly being left in the dark about exactly what is going on.  On Sunday, that system came crumbling down and left me and others like me confused, angry and placed in an unjust situation.

As a rising junior with a fairly average lottery number of 160, I decided to follow all of Res Life’s suggestions in order to get the best possible room without adding too much stress to my busy weekend.  I asked around with other sophomores and older students who have been in a similar scenario and figured that, despite recent housing changes, it was likely that I would end up with a Dark Side single or double or a Dunham single.  Knowing that anything can happen, I planned out several back up plans with other students in case things went south.

Then the day of the lottery came. I followed Res Life’s real-time available housing list, and as my turn grew close, I saw that there were nearly ten available singles on Dark Side. Confident that I would be able to get one, I told the students with whom I had made backup plans that I would most likely be getting a single and went to go pick my room.

After I showed my ID, I waited to go with the escort into the room of reckoning. I walked over to the giant floor plan of a Dark Side dorm and was told there were five or six singles open for me.  Little did I know that all but one of these singles had actually been taken before I even entered the Annex.  I walked over to the other floor plan for Macintosh and waited in line to put in my selection.  As I reached the front of the line, another student who had taken longer to decide on rooms was allowed to skip me and get the last single in the dorm because his number happened to be better than mine.

Although the online housing list said I had nine singles to choose from, and I was told once inside the Annex that there were five available, I ended up being shut out of all of them and had to call another student to get a new room.  He had already made other plans so I decided to not screw up anyone else’s situation and look for another single.  However, the time I took waiting on the Macintosh line was costly, and I had to go back on the line for Dunham singles and was not allowed to jump in front of other students who had worse numbers than me.  All the available singles had already been taken by the time I reached the front, so once again, I found myself scrambling for a room. A lottery staffer informed me that there was a single available in Milbank as long as I could pull someone else into the adjacent single.  I quickly went into the Barn and asked around to see if anyone wanted a Dark Side single.  A girl quickly volunteered, and we rushed back into the Annex to get the spot before it was taken.

When I got back in the Annex, I was told the staff was mistaken and, in fact, the two singles where just one double, so I told the girl that it wouldn’t work.  After all the running around and trying to work with the staff, I was still left without a room.  I was forced to pick a Bundy single or risk being put into the summer lottery. I left the Annex after two hours of unnecessary stress due to the poor planning of Res Life.

My situation is not too unusual for the housing lottery, a fact that further emphasizes how broken the Res Life department and the extremely flawed housing lottery system are. The staff is unable to guide students who have been working with false information. We are left in a state of strategic ignorance, and those who fall through the cracks are dismissed as quickly as their situation crumbles.

The next day, I went to the office of  Assistant Director of Residential Life Ashley Place to talk about what happened to me on Sunday.  When I expressed my dissatisfection with the structure of the housing lottery, Place only said that students should anticipate a lot of change and for information to be moved slowly and sometimes incorrectly.

Ultimately, I and many other students are left unhappy with the results of the lottery. I am now left to waste my time working to better my housing situation for next year because the system has failed me.

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