The Lottery

Panic has seized the campus. Students are desperately seeking one another out, trying to make deals in order to determine their fates. What is the cause of this commotion?

The lottery.

Almost everyone agrees that the housing system at Brandeis is terrible. I would like to explore what I think is wrong with it, possible models we could implement from other schools in order to fix it and then open the floor up for feedback or other suggestions which would help the housing process run more smoothly. Of course if there were more dorms, more dorms with kitchens, and nicer dorms people would be much more positive about their housing options, but I’d rather focus on changes that can be implemented at little to no cost and do not take that much time; changes to the system.

1. Your lottery number is completely random
You could get a crappy number potentially all 3 years during which you have the ability to select your room at Brandeis. True, this randomization does not give people with higher GPA’s better lottery numbers say, as they do at the University of Mary Washington and Rowan University, which is a policy change I would not support, but it allows for some students to consistently receive bad numbers while others receive good ones.

Solution: Some schools have implemented systems in which if you get above a certain number one year then you are guaranteed to get below that number the following year. For instance, if you receive a “bad” number as a sophomore, you would get a “better” number as a junior, although irregularities such as studying abroad or availability would of course affect this system. Although this would make the process less “fair” i.e. less randomized, it would make it more fair in terms of everyone suffering equally, by receiving a mixed bag of the good and the bad numbers.

2. Your appointment time is randomly assigned, and you must go in person
Many students have class or other responsibilities they cannot get out of, preventing them from attending their appointment times. Instead, they must appoint proxies to advocate on their behalf, although choosing a room for someone else is very impractical and difficult. This applies to students who study abroad in the spring as well. In addition, because students use more time then they are allotted, there is usually a delay, during which students must wait outside until they are called in, making the appointments very inconvenient and unhelpful. Not to mention the added stress of having to go in person.

Solution: Tufts, Harvard University, Boston College and the University of California, Berkeley all use StarRez, an online site which facilitates student housing. Tufts switched over to StarRez this past fall. As TuftsDaily reported, one major benefit is that “students under the new lottery system will be able to access a customized view of available rooms based on their class year, the type of room they are looking for or the building they wish to live in.” StarRez worked with Tufts in order to craft a system which would work well with their housing opportunities for students, taking into account restrictions based on class year and limited housing. The Director of Tufts’ Office of Residential Life and Learning, Yolanda King, said of StarRez “They are well known in terms of other housing departments at other schools.” Another change that could be implemented even without the online system is the public posting of what dorms are still available on an hourly basis so that students know what their options are when they show up for their appointments. Taking the secrecy and unpredictability out of the process would definitely relieve stress for many participants.

3. The Department of Community Living website is confusing
This is something the Department of Community Living could definitely fix if given the proper student input and in possession of good technological skills. The language and wording of many of the policies are confusing, such as the range of options for students studying abroad in the fall and spring, and the website contains empty links or redirects you to incorrect locations.

Solution: Some school’s websites, such as George Washington University’s, contain itemized lists of housing with diagrams attached depicting what each individual room looks like and its dimensions. I have friends who mixed up the height and width of their Castle double when selecting their room assignment and were quite surprised when they first set foot in their room the following semester, which leads me to believe that pictures truly do help.

What other problems and possible solutions do YOU see?






4 responses to “The Lottery”

  1. Arthur

    … last year in the Hoot I wrote something on housing where i proposed a system for getting a bad, mediocre and good number over the 3 years in the lottery

  2. ARt

    I do share the notion that those that get poor [will have to be defined by cutoffs] lottery numbers for 2 years ought get preference their rising senior year.

  3. Matt

    Yeah, I think Art’s right. The root of a lot of housing-related stress seems to be the knowledge that there are only a few “good” choices and failing to get them will likely result in being exiled to Grad.

    1. Random selection doesn’t really seem like an issue. Some people *will* lose, and I’d rather leave it to chance than try different means of enforcing uniformly terrible housing on successive classes. As mentioned, if the overall quality of housing were better, getting a bad number would be less of an issue. The pull-in system might need fixing.
    2. I’m always a fan of doing things online, especially if it makes the whole process less time-dependent and easier to plan ahead for.
    3. I think the website accurately reflects how unhelpful, inefficient, and frustrating DCL actually is.

  4. ARt

    The housing choices almost always blow donkey phallus as well-a much more difficult problem to solve.