April 4, 2013
With the housing lottery coming up quicker than many would like to admit, I believe that now is the perfect time to consider whether or not our fine Hamilton tradition is really the best way to assign housing for the upcoming year.
Many would argue that it is a pretty great system. It’s a lottery, and the number assignment is random and, as a result, fair. There are also ways to work within the system to recover if your number is less than ideal, such as the option to pull or be pulled. However, I believe that this system is neither fair nor ideal, and is actually the root of some serious problems in our campus culture.
While the number assignment within each class is random, the assignment within the big, campus-wide picture is pretty much set in stone. The seniority based weight of the number assignments, while on one hand somewhat justifiable, skews the lottery in a way that has very major repercussions.
A system that gives more weight to the upperclassmen’s numbers is understandable. These are students who have been here for a long time, gone through the whole system and paid their dues. They had to face the limitations placed on their younger counterparts and are now being rewarded with their chance to come first. However, they are given this chance at the expense of the lower classes. Rising sophomores in particular are left with little to no options for housing.
There are the few that get lucky and weasel their way into an upperclassman’s good graces through Greek societies or sports teams and end up getting pulled in to decent or even awesome housing. We see the majority of this oft forgotten class end up stuck in arguably the worst housing on campus (we all know Bundy really sucks) or are even left with no housing at all. Leaving school with no idea where you’re going to be living for the next year is just ridiculous. Yes, juniors and seniors had to go through this too at one time, and that’s why they get the perks later. But should anyone go through this at all? It the housing lottery were to be a true, fair lottery, seniority shouldn’t have any weight, or should at least not have such significant weight.
Even if you decide to ignore the question of fairness within this seniority-based system, there is one problem that is a consequence of the system that cannot be denied or ignored. The rigid and distinct separation of the classes at Hamilton College, which is something that students and administrators alike find to be a problem, is a direct result of the seniority-based housing placement system. Because the weight of the numbers is based on class year, people of the same class always end up living together.
Seniors will always get the best housing and live and interact with mostly other seniors. Juniors are more of a wild card, but chances are they will mostly live with other juniors. Sophomores have the greatest likelihood of living only with those in their class year. And first years will always end up getting shoved in whatever is left over.
The easiest way to get the classes to connect with one another is to get them to live together. The housing lottery makes this literally near impossible. How can we expect to come together as a campus-wide community when we are systematically separated like this? How can we honestly be expcted to come together?
At this moment, I don’t see any feasible alternatives to the current housing lottery system. However, I believe that rethinking the system and eliminating or adjusting the weight given to those with seniority would be a great thing for the Hamilton community as a whole.