When it came to our attention that certain students may have influenced their pick in the housing draw based on their ability to pay a little extra, the thought was pretty disturbing. However, the real issue may turn out to be not that students took the initiative to exploit this loophole, but that the loophole existed in the first place.
Regardless of the current case, for the future the policy should be clear: students should not be allowed to entice upperclassmen to pick in with them by offering a financial award.
Williams has a long history of financial matters being at the center of housing. Anyone who has attended Professor Emeritus Whitney Stoddard’s lecture “A Sense of Where You Are” would know that at one point students actually bid for rooms in Morgan. In the frat days, being able to pay was of course a key element in being able to join a fraternity.
However, those days are long gone at Williams and for good reason. It should not matter if students have the ability to pay more for better housing. Putting a price on a housing number would destroy the central principle of random equality behind the current room draw.
It is the administration’s responsibility to ensure that the system remains fair and therefore they should explicitly state that any monetary exchange in regards to housing will not be tolerated. It is also imperative that the administration adopts this policy and that they seek to enforce it. We respect and appreciate the relationship that the administration seeks to pursue with students by maintaining a “hands-off” policy in respect to most personal matters. However, there are some circumstances that the administration must recognize for future prevention.
In this case, no rule that we know of was actually broken, but it seems clear to us that such a circumvention of the system was not fair. The insertion of language in the housing guidelines explicitly prohibiting the exchange of money in matters of housing would eliminate the ambiguity. It would be nice to believe we could trust everyone to honor the spirit of the housing draw, and, to a great extent we can, but even allowing the possibility of buying a better housing pick is inexcusable. In this case we should close the loophole.