Neighborhood swap begins three-year trial

Last week, the College conducted its first-ever neighborhood swap. The swap, which came to fruition as a result of student requests, allows rising juniors and seniors to directly switch neighborhoods with another student of the same gender and class year by filling out an online form prior to the neighborhood draw. Students unable to arrange a direct swap but who still want to switch neighborhoods simply participate in the normal neighborhood draw process.
According to Assistant Director of Campus Life Aaron Gordon, between 12 and 15 students participated in the swap in its inaugural year. In the past, a few neighborhood swaps had been made on a case-by-case basis. The official swapping system that began this year did not “create a major loophole” in the neighborhood draw, Gordon said.
“It wasn’t a huge process, but it wasn’t totally out of whack with what I would have gotten anyway from year to year,” he said. “It seemed like another option that students could try.”
The neighborhood draw process will look substantially different this year compared to the past two years: As a result of the Neighborhood Review Committee’s work last year, all members of the Class of 2014 arrived at the College without a neighborhood assignment. All first-years will have to participate in both the neighborhood draw and room draw to secure housing for the 2011-12 academic year.
In past years, “with the random assignments of neighborhoods, first-year students had more of a drive to switch neighborhoods to be with their friends,” Gordon said. He added that 140 and 165 first-years entered into the neighborhood draw in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Previously, students who were able to arrange a direct swap were not required to participate in the neighborhood draw.
“This year we have all the first-years in the neighborhood draw and there are about 151 non-first-year participants,” Gordon said. “I don’t think the impact has been all that great in terms of how the exchange has influenced the lottery.”
The number of rising juniors and seniors entering the neighborhood draw remains roughly the same despite the introduction of the neighborhood swap. In 2009 and 2010,156 and 149 non-first-year students, respectively, entered the draw.
Dilia Ortega ’13, who switched from Dodd to Spencer after entering into the neighborhood draw last year, successfully swapped with a Currier student last week. “Spencer really limited my options because West is now quiet housing, so I wanted to be in Currier,” she said. Ortega posted on WSO and found someone to swap with through a mutual friend.
Her experience switching in consecutive years was very different. The neighborhood draw was far more stressful than the swap, according to Ortega. “Now I’ve secured a spot in the neighborhood I want as opposed to trying my luck in the neighborhood lottery,” she said. “This was a definite improvement from last year, and I personally preferred this to the neighborhood draw.
“I think it made a lot of things easier for some people, but the whole idea of finding someone in your class year and gender still made it hard,” Ortega said. “I got lucky in the sense that my roommate had a close friend who wanted to switch, but it really is difficult for people who don’t necessarily know people on campus. There were a lot of people who wanted to switch, so there was a lot of competition.”
“The neighborhood lottery mirrors our system for room draw,” Gordon said. Both processes ensure that neighborhoods retain roughly equal gender and class year balances.
Gordon hopes to give the neighborhood swap system at least a three-year trial prior before reaching a verdict on its effectiveness. “It’s hard to see the first year if you are having the right impact. This is the first year that Greylock [dining hall] hasn’t been open, so that may be causing some changes,” Gordon said. “Other things may be occurring in other neighborhoods from a student perspective that are pushing traffic in one direction or another.”
There were few quirks in the neighborhood swap system. The only issue Gordon encountered was with students who had not fully read the protocol required to switch and then found out that they were ineligible.
Going forward, students and the College alike are eager to see where the project goes. “One year is a test, two years you don’t know and three years you might have a pattern developing,” Gordon said.
While the swapping period has now concluded, the neighborhood draw will take place this evening in Bronfman auditorium beginning at 7 p.m.