Serial neighborhood switchers get lucky, work the system

As the last few months of school wind down and hopeful murmuring about summer jobs and tans and flings starts floating cross the warm sunny quads (or perhaps, more accurately, the quads we wish were warm and sunny), talk about another subject rises to a fever pitch: neighborhoods.

Coalescing into pick groups, evaluating the pros and cons of staying put or changing neighborhoods and crossing their fingers during the room draw lottery, students who are used to working hard and seeing results basically attempt to maneuver their way within a system that seems largely based on chance. When one does a little digging, however, one will uncover a breed of students who can shed light upon the secret workings of room draw: serial neighborhood switchers. These students who have switched neighborhoods at least twice during their years at the College have quite a few interesting stories to tell about getting into the neighborhoods of their choice, whether it be through official, legal means or through … other means.

Let’s start with a story that almost approaches shining success within the neighborhood system, or at least reassures us that one can indeed manage changing into desirable neighborhoods without a fluke stroke of luck.

Aven King ’12 owes allegiance to three neighborhoods: Currier, Wood and Dodd. Freshman and sophomore year, King was placed in Currier, living in Mission and East, respectively. There was a little chaos with forming her pick group freshman year. Like a truly stellar neighborhood member, King ran for Currier board and landed the position of secretary. “I probably feel the most loyal to Currier because I know my way around, you know, because I was a part of the board,” King said. “But as long as you participate in events in your neighborhood, you’ll feel attached.”

King hit some slightly rough waters come the end of sophomore year, when her Wood friends tried to switch into her Currier pick group. Instead, in King’s words, she ended up getting “stuffed” into Wood. This year, King tried to pick into Dodd by herself in order to move in with another group of friends senior year. “I was planning everything like I was going to lose,” King said. “But then, miracle of miracles, I got into Dodd. Hopefully I didn’t use up all of my good karma for room draw!”

Looking at the tale of Bonnie Pham ’13, who has maneuvered her way through the neighborhood system with completely innocent legal means, does quite the opposite of bringing hope to the common aspiring neighborhood switcher. In fact, the tale of Pham reveals the dark underbelly of the “fair” lottery.

Starting as a freshman in Wood neighborhood, Pham entered the neighborhood draw because one member of her pick group wanted to switch into Wood – all normal here so far. Pham’s real name, Vy Pham, sounds remarkably similar to that of Thuy Pham ’11. So similar, in fact, that Campus Life mixed up the two students and put Thuy into Bonnie’s pick group of sophomores and Bonnie into Thuy’s pick group of seniors. During actual pick day, Bonnie picked in rooms with her own group and Thuy did the same with his group. However, the mistake drastically affected their pick numbers. “We got an incredible pick number,” Bonnie said. “Thuv brought us up and I brought them down.” Faced with the option of switching into any neighborhood, Bonnie’s group picked into Spencer.
Pham’s incredible success with the system continued through this year, when she decided to switch neighborhoods again and ended up with first pick. Yes, Pham and her pick group are those four sophomore girls who were the only ones to get into Dodd. “I swear, it’s all because of my name. The system doesn’t get my name, I mean maybe it’s because Vy is kind of a weird name,” Pham said. “They tell you it’s random but there is definitely something non-random about it. Knock on wood (at least for me)!” Though Pham may be eternally content to remain in Dodd, it is interesting to point out that she could try to shoot for the moon and live in a new neighborhood each year. In fact, the Class of 2013 is the last possible class to live in all four neighborhoods.

Now let’s turn to some of the neighborhood switchers who operate through the grey, covert channels of Campus Life to achieve their ends. Rhassan Hill ’11 has been through rough and smooth times with Campus Life, learning its secrets in the process.

Starting in Currier, Hill decided he might want to take a leave of absence halfway through his sophomore year. He didn’t realize, however, that the College grants leave of absence requests immediately. “I came back from winter break, and normally I leave my door unlocked, right?” Hill said. “But it was locked. I unlocked it and found another girl living in my room! All of her stuff was set up and my stuff was shoved to the side!” Instead of getting his room back, Hill was put into Dennett basement for the spring semester. “The basement wasn’t an entry – it was a bunch of people who were, like, coming back from leave and didn’t have anywhere to go,” Hill said. “We called it Siberia.”

Junior year, Hill picked into Prospect but decided halfway through the year that the partying on his floor (and “continual vomit in the sink”) was not acceptable. “There are ways to change your neighborhood without going through neighborhood draw,” Hill said, with a sneaky look in his eye. “If you go to Aaron Gordon really nicely during Winter Study, he may be willing to oblige your request to change.” This is just what Hill did, and he ended up switching into a palatial room in Dodd.

Rising into his senior year, Hill wanted to switch neighborhoods yet again into Wood. “It’s my philosophy never to live in the same place twice,” Hill said. “Each one has its own flavor to it, with its own memories.” Trying to go through the neighborhood system the normal way yielded him a low pick number, and Hill decided to settle for, well, another palatial room in Dodd.

Sydney Tooze ’12 is perhaps one of the only people on campus who can claim no physical neighborhood affiliation. After living in Spencer freshman year, she worked out an elaborate plan to “beat” the system. Essentially she planned to unofficially swap places with a friend in Currier, to their mutual benefit. Arriving early on campus sophomore year to help work in the WOC equipment office, Tooze had to ask Security to give her a key to her room. “Security flat out refused to let me in,” Tooze said. “I had to bend and get officially registered for Currier.” Now a JA in Sage C, Tooze still has no neighborhood she calls her own. “I go to every neighborhood’s events, so it’s sort of like I’m part of all of them.”

Though the tales of champion serial neighborhood switchers sadly (or perhaps not so sadly) will no longer be relevant in a few years because the first-years have no fixed affiliation, upperclassmen: Squirrel away a few pearls of wisdom for your last years of navigating the purple bubble’s housing system.