The impending restructuring of the housing system promises a number of exciting improvements, but also raises a few potential problems. The Record would like to commend the administration for recognizing that the current housing lottery process is enormously stressful for both students and administrators. While proposed changes might make room draw night slightly more stressful by offering students more options to choose from, this stress will likely be offset by the perks of living wherever and with whomever we wish, regardless of past neighborhood allegiance. As the slew of neighborhood-swap related posts on WSO around housing lottery time demonstrates, it is unreasonable to assume first-years will live with the same group of friends for three years at the College. A singular campus-wide housing lottery is the best community-building system because it will allow students to live with or near whomever they choose, without arbitrary boundaries preventing them from doing so. Under this system, students will better benefit from the neighborhood organizations, whose purpose it is to organize events, activities and other community-building ventures.
However, the Record would like to caution against the potential implementation of a grandfathering process for rising seniors. The rationale behind the grandfathering period is that students may have picked into their neighborhood as sophomores in the hope of getting prime senior-year housing – this issue might be particularly salient in neighborhoods like Dodd. This process is fair for those who wish to stay in their neighborhood, but gives rising seniors little incentive to enter the general lottery if they know they will have a better pick number in their neighborhood lottery than in the general lottery. The Undergraduate Residential Life Ad-hoc Advisory Committee (URLAAC) should be wary of implementing the grandfather clause, as it will make it difficult to accurately determine the effectiveness of the new lottery process.
We at the Record also applaud the way in which the new system will disperse students from year to year. The current system makes it easy for groups of students to inhabit the same dorm or hall each year, which can breed resentment among other students who do not feel welcome among these insular groups. Opening up the entire housing system might make it less likely that groups of students will consistently pick into the same house, since a range of options will be open. But the new lottery system will also make it easier for large groups to pick in together, which could isolate individuals outside of certain social spheres (both athletic and extracurricular). The new lottery could bring a more diverse set of social groups together, which would bolster a sense of community.
URLAAC must be aware that students at the bottom of the housing lottery will get worse housing than they would in a neighborhood draw. The administration should have a contingency plan in place to help these pick groups or individuals find acceptable housing. A commitment to allow flexibility in gender or class caps on neighborhood housing in order to keep pick groups together could help counter the potential problem of being the last pick in the entire school.
The Record would also like to commend the recommendation to move Quiet Housing from its current location in West College. Given that Quiet Housing currently receives more than twice as many applications as it can accept – last year 120 students applied for 54 spots – moving Quiet Housing to Tyler House and Tyler Annex will allow more students who want Quiet Housing to receive it. The number of applications for Quiet Housing consistently reflects not just West’s incredible location, but rather the desire for a quiet living environment. Moving Quiet Housing from West might discourage a handful of students from applying for Quiet Housing simply for location concerns, but it will not make Quiet Housing a significantly less attractive option. Tyler House and Tyler Annex may be further from the heart of campus, but this is an advantageous location for Quiet Housing, as residential neighbors complain about noise levels in the current dorms. If too few students apply to fill both Tyler and Tyler Annex, the administration’s plan to use Thompson House as an alternative makes sense, as well.
The Record acknowledges that the new plan for Quiet Housing seems like it might stigmatize those who may already be set apart from the general community at the College. Tyler House and Tyler Annex have a reputation as undesirable dorms. Putting students who desire quiet living in one of the most removed dorms seems like it could be isolating, but the Quiet Housing move is a long-term decision. The College’s memory is only four years long, and the current stigma associated with Tyler will diminish over time. The merit of Quiet Housing should not be its location, but rather that it will not be as loud as other dorms on campus. On the whole, being able to accommodate dozens more students in Quiet Housing warrants the change in location.