Against all odds: Making the best of ‘bad-luck’ housing

The end of the academic year brings a flood of emotions: excitement for summer, disdain for final exams and of course, anxiety for the housing lottery. I had the privilege of speaking to some of last year’s Cawamayday Winners − those ever-so-fortunate students who drew the last pick number within their respective neighborhoods − about their current rooming situations.

Most of us have experienced the chaos that is the housing lottery process, anxiously waiting with pick groups in Bronfman Auditorium for neighborhood assignments and doing it all over again to select individual rooms.

I recall my own housing lottery experience last spring; our group had one of the last pick numbers for the neighborhood draw. We sat in Bronfman Auditorium with homework to aid the (rather long)  passage of time before our names were called to choose in which neighborhood we would reside. Ultimately, our pick number chose for us. We watched the number of rooms in Spencer and Wood neighborhoods steadily dwindle until Currier and Dodd were the only neighborhoods still open. Finally, when it came to our group, the spaces in all neighborhoods but Dodd had been filled.

Despite our relative misfortune in the first leg of the lottery, we had considerably more luck with our pick number within Dodd Neighborhood.

Though our pick group of four girls was ultimately split apart into two separate houses, we all ended up in the centrally located Dodd Circle rather than Tyler Annex or Tyler House. And the four of us are quite pleased with our living situation at present.

While most Ephs have few complaints about their rooming situation, Teddy Cohan ’16 says his initial reaction to his group’s pick was “somewhere between horror and shock.” He explained that his group was the last in the neighborhood lottery and second to last in the second intra-neighborhood lottery for Dodd Neighborhood. In fact, he and his pick group were disappointed that they were not thrown the pizza party that they were initially promised by the Office of Student Life.

Cohan and the rest of the students in his pick group ended up in Tyler Annex, more commonly referred to as “Tannex” or even “Vermont.” He describes it as “kind of like a minimum security prison because of the cinder block feel.” People that live at Tyler Annex often complain about losing cellphone reception once they are back at their rooms and even boast about the occasional morning deer sighting.

Nonetheless, Cohan conceded that he likes the private bathrooms. “The rooms are big. And on my side, I have a good view of the foliage,” he said.

But he’s not a fan of the distance between Tyler Annex and the rest of campus. His sentiments are only reaffirmed by comments from friends living elsewhere on campus. For example, some have made remarks like, “Can you drive me there?” when asked if they would ever visit the Tannex or “I’ll never see you this year!”

Cohan has become an advocate for housing lottery reform. “I did not have a single choice in this process,” he said. “If you’re in the bottom quarter of the neighborhood lottery then you should be protected from being in the bottom quarter in the next round – there should be some sort of safety mechanism.”

“When you’re in Frosh Quad, you’re around people in the same year,” he said. “In the Annex, you’re removed from everything and you can feel very isolated. And if I didn’t have a car, it would be annoying to get anywhere. So I guess the ideal place is somewhere with people of the same class year and more central, like Greylock or Currier.”

Yet despite having the last pick in Spencer Neighborhood, Seth Montgomery ’16 is content with his current living situation. He says that he and his pick group were assigned a “decent” number in the initial neighborhood lottery but came dead last in the Spencer Neighborhood lottery.

He described his initial reaction to the situation as, “Shucks!” But ultimately, Montgomery ended up in a double that he says is just fine. “We did no scouting, didn’t even prepare for the room draw and the other places were gender capped. So, we chose between Brooks, Morgan and Spencer House,” he said.

Montgomery and most of the people he picked in with are on the swim team. He and his friends decided to split themselves into two pick groups, former Mission Park residents and former Frosh Quad residents, in order to divide themselves evenly and fairly. Another result of the bad pick number was that he and his group were unable to pick in near the other members of the team.

Montgomery thinks the current housing lottery system is fair. “I would change nothing,” he said. “I’m pretty pleased with where I am. My pick group is a bunch of laid-back guys. We wanted a common space, but we’re not losing our minds over it or anything.”

When asked about his ideal living space on campus, he responded similarly to Cohan, “One of the Greylock buildings. Somewhere with a common room so we could have three people on either side of the common space and all singles.”

In a slightly different situation, James Howe ’16 and his football teammates had the last lottery number in the Currier Neighborhood lottery.  However, Student Life offered the current sophomores the option of choosing from all the rooms available on campus, not just those in Currier, as they were the very last group to get assigned a residence. Howe and his group decided to switch into Wood Neighborhood, with four of them placing into the basement of Wood House and two of them in Perry.

Ultimately, for Cohan, Montgomery, Howe and their respective pick groups, it all worked out in the end, despite unlucky circumstances. But next year, they’re hoping the lottery treats them better. May the odds be ever in their favor.

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