Office of Campus Life announces new plan for switching clusters

As part of the ongoing reassessment of the cluster system, Campus Life has initiated a new process for students who want to switch to other neighborhoods. The new process will go into effect before room draw this spring.
Under the new process, groups of up to six students representing any mixture of class years and neighborhood affiliations can apply to give up their original neighborhoods and enter an annual Neighborhood Change Lottery.
Like the room draw, pick order will be weighted by class year priority. In addition, students who participate in the lottery process more than once will incur a penalty weightage in the room draw.
“After going through two cycles of the previous neighborhood change process, I felt it really didn’t function that well,” said Aaron Gordon, assistant director of Campus Life for residential programs and housing. “It wasn’t all that easy to understand, didn’t accomplish what it was meant to accomplish.”
According to Gordon, the change process is intended to give students the option of living with their friends even if their friends are in a different neighborhood. “It isn’t intended to let people choose the neighborhood they want,” he said, noting that in its previous incarnation it gave an advantage to first-years. “That didn’t strike me as the fairest way.”
The previous process, as detailed in the Committee on Undergraduate Life’s February 2006 transitional report, allows groups of up to three upperclassmen to apply to be randomly assigned to one of the four neighborhoods.
While first-years had the option of either seeking random reassignment in groups of up to six, the more popular procedure allowed groups of four or five first-years of the same neighborhood affiliation to pull one additional first-year student into their neighborhood.
Gordon noted a further weakness of the old system. “Another piece that wasn’t working was that decision about neighborhood change assignments was almost entirely mine,” he said. “I think it’s better now because it’s more transparent and friendly. This way you get to see all available spaces, and you get to pick.”
In addition to gender caps – mandated between a minimum of 40 percent and maximum of 60 percent of the same sex in one house and cluster – class year caps will be in place for each neighborhood at the lottery.
“We don’t want to get into a situation where there aren’t enough beds in the neighborhood,” Gordon said, “although some of them will be some guesswork because of study away and Junior Advisors.”
After considering a revision in the process since last February, Gordon sought input at a College Council meeting last spring. “I didn’t want to make a change that would be another top-down thing,” he said.
This fall, he fleshed out further details with Jeremy Goldstein ’09 and Peter Nurnberg ’09, CC co-presidents. “We came up with process that encompassed all details raised by students but also worked for Campus Life.”
In a straw poll last Wednesday, CC members voted 17-4 in favor of the new process.
“What we like best about the new process is that it enables students live with their friends, regardless of neighborhood and year,” Nurnberg said. “Aaron has been doing a really good job of getting student input and creating a process that makes sense to students.”
Gordon also emphasized that the room draw penalty is meant as a deterrent only for students who voluntarily enter the Neighborhood Change Lottery multiple times, even if they end up picking back into their original neighborhood.
It will not, however, apply to students whose neighborhoods change due to room assignments upon returning from study abroad.
Tentatively, Campus Life expects to put out information on the new lottery process at the beginning of spring semester, and to conclude the process by early March.
“I’m curious to see how this process affects the numbers of students interested in applying, once it goes into effect,” Gordon said. “Response has been positive, but I don’t know if it will correlate to more neighborhood swaps. At the end of the day, I just hope it’s student-friendly.”