Room draw policy changed despite objections

The administration informed College Council (CC) last Wednesday that this week’s room draw will be partially blind in that students will be unable to view the room draw results online. Though many of its members are against this change, CC was unable to issue a statement in opposition to it due to the lack of a quorum at the meeting. However, CC is considering convening an emergency meeting to discuss this issue.

In past years, students could log onto the Williams Students Online (WSO) website to see the names of students who had picked into rooms in real time throughout the room draw process. However, WSO was asked by the administration not to post the room draw results online this year. Instead, the names of students who have picked into rooms will only be posted inside the Mission Park Lounges where the room draw takes place.

According to last Wednesday’s CC minutes, the WSO representatives said the administration “made it quite clear that somebody will be punished if they try to get around [the prohibition of online room draw posting] in any way.”

The debate concerning blind room draw has escalated to the highest level; the College’s Board of Trustees recently supported a blind room draw during their discussions on residential life at the College.

“Overall, there is tremendous support among the Trustees for the changes we are making,” said Nancy Roseman, dean of the College. However, Roseman added that some members of the Board of Trustees believe the College should take a more active role in the allocation of rooms in the housing system.

“Many trustees come from a time when the College assigned everyone to their dorms and rooms and, in their memory, that worked really well,” said Roseman. “It created a random distribution of students across campus and there was no segregation by class year, or any of the other ways students now segregate themselves.”

In an effort to ease the concerns of the student body, the administration informed CC last Friday that WSO may post the gender and class year of the students who have picked into rooms, but names will still remain anonymous. Mark Rosenthal ’03, co-president of CC, credits Roseman for fighting on behalf of the student body for this compromise. “The administration was pushing for a blind draw, but she saved us,” he said.

“What we are trying to do is strike a balance between certain things: getting a more random distribution of students across campus while maintaining some student choice,” said Roseman. “It is a difficult balance and it will take some time to see how it sorts out.”

During the Committee on Undergraduate Life’s (CUL) evaluation of the residential housing system this year, making the room draw process blind was discussed.

“Blind draw is actually a term that Professor Dew, chairman of the CUL, coined,” said Khurram Ahmed ’03, the Class of 2003 representative to CC and a member of the CUL. “[Blind room draw] was part of the draft of our initial draft proposal. We discussed it. We got some input and then it was one of the first things we removed.”

Many students have reacted negatively toward this change. “[Under the old system] you would at least have the advantage of avoiding those you hate,” said Robert Pickard ’05. “Now if you don’t know who you are picking next to, you could end up living next to your arch enemy.”

Other students expressed concern that the partially blind room draw is an attempt to create an overly structured community by forcing different groups of students together. “I think that the school tries too many times to [en]force a sense of community,” said Phil Michael ’04. “I think that this is just another example of going too far to create an artificial community.”

However, some first-years are not concerned about the change. “We’re freshmen, so we don’t know any other system,” said Julia Brown ’05.

“We’ll probably ask our friends where they are living before we go into pick our rooms, so we’ll already know,” said Lucy Thiboutot ’05.

Believing that the student body is strongly opposed to a partially blind room draw, CC discussed this change at its meeting last Wednesday. However, CC was unable to issue a formal statement on behalf of the student body since a quorum, consisting of at least two-thirds of voting members or substitutes, was not present.

“The CC can’t vote unless quorum is there,” said Rosenthal. “We had quorum for the whole meeting, except for towards the end when several members had other meetings and left. We weren’t able to act as a body; we couldn’t issue a statement.”

Despite being unable to pass a statement opposing the change, Rosenthal explained that the CC house representatives have been actively working to inform their housemates about the issue. “We told all CC reps to e-mail their houses with the situation and for those constituents to voice their concerns, if they have them,” said Rosenthal.

One option, which the CC officers discussed at their meeting on Sunday night, is to convene a special session of CC in order to act on the change. “I would like to convene an emergency meeting,” said Federico Sosa ’04, an all-campus representative to CC. “I think enough CC members will show because a lot of them feel ashamed for not having subs there [last Wednesday].”

At this meeting, CC will have an opportunity to pass an official statement opposing the partially blind room draw change. “I would like to have a letter drafted by a significant portion of College Council members before this Wednesday,” said Sosa.

“If we had this emergency meeting and if we had quorum, we could put together a statement and issue it to the administration with the CC stamp on it,” Rosenthal added.

In addition, other CC members are calling on the administration to inform the student body on the reasons for this change. “We should at least get Dean Roseman to send a statement to the whole student body,” said Sosa. “I think that this particular policy should be postponed at least one more year.”

In the end, Rosenthal is doubtful that this policy can be changed. “It’s a College policy and CC can’t change College policy,” he said.

“I think the CC voice has been heard and I think that the policy has been set in stone.”