316 students enter neighborhood lottery

Yesterday evening, 316 Williams College students gathered in Bronfman auditorium to participate in the neighborhood change lottery. The neighborhood draw will be followed in upcoming weeks with preparations for room draw, which will take place May 4 and May 5.

Students participating in the draw were notified of the breakdown of available neighborhood spaces in an e-mail sent by Campus Life last week. Currier neighborhood had 107 available spaces; Wood had 85, Spencer had 54 and Dodd had 70. These spaces were subject to class year and gender caps.

The number of students participating in neighborhood draw was unevenly distributed among the rising seniors, juniors and sophomores. The 165 members of the Class of 2013 who entered the draw represented the largest group. Eighty-one members of the Class of 2012 applied to change their neighborhoods, as did 70 members of the Class of 2011.
According to Aaron Gordon, assistant director of Campus Life, the 316 students who participated in this year’s neighborhood lottery represent nearly a 10 percent increase from the 290 students who changed neighborhoods last year.

Gordon speculated that this increase might be due partly to a modification in the process. Last year, neighborhood change rules specified that if a student entered the neighborhood draw more than once in his or her time at the College, he or she would be penalized by having a lower room draw number (“Three hundred students are set to switch neighborhoods,” March 4, 2009). Per a recommendation  from the Neighborhood Review Committee (NRC), students entering the neighborhood draw this year will not penalized in any way.

Due to another NRC recommendation that designated West House as quiet housing, Spencer Neighborhood lost 54 beds. According to Gordon, this loss was mitigated by a number of factors. He said that “a little less than half” of the students living in West next year are Spencer Neighborhood students. He added that Spencer Neighborhood saw a high number of students studying abroad next semester. “We only had to reallocate about 10 beds to make up for the difference due to quiet housing,” he said, adding that the reallocation was accomplished by slightly altering the number of available spots in other neighborhoods.

Gordon said that the concern he heard most from students was getting into the neighborhood of their choice. He added that he made a point of counseling students that the neighborhood lottery is somewhat unique in that if one applies, one must complete the process (unlike, for example, the co-op draw). “If you apply, you can’t pull out,” Gordon said. “We try to make it clear to students that they have to be ready to follow through.”

The e-mail sent to participating students also stressed that each student “must select a neighborhood on the night of the selection process,” as students could not choose to default back to their original neighborhoods after entering the draw.

Gordon also acknowledged that the delay caused by waiting for the NRC recommendations has put time pressure on the entire room draw process. Last year, neighborhood draw took place on March 4. “Although it’s nice to have a buffer in case of logistical issues, we have to do a quicker turn around and deal with issues in a more accelerated manner,” he said, noting that he hopes to send out information about room draw as early as tomorrow.

He added, though, that the delay does have its advantages. “In the past, we had to use estimates of how many students from which neighborhoods would be JAs or would be studying abroad, but having neighborhood draw later means we’re dealing with real data this year,” Gordon said.

In all, Gordon expressed satisfaction with the changes made by the NRC and their effects on the room draw process. “I think it happened about as well as it could have given how long we waited to see what changes would be made,” he said.

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