In the neighborhood

“I really want to live in Morgan!” “Well, that’s senior housing. You’ll have to live in Greylock sophomore year.” “Oh, but it’s dingy in there, and the rooms are small. Oh well, it’s still worth it to live in Morgan senior year.”

Does this conversation sound familiar? It’s a kind of discussion many people probably had before picking into their neighborhoods freshman year.

If you haven’t heard by now, the Undergraduate Residential Life Ad-Hoc Advisory Committee (URLAAC) hopes to eliminate binding affiliation to a neighborhood during room draw. That is, students will no longer be forced to stay in their neighborhoods for room draw. This is a commendable goal with a praiseworthy intention, but it is important that URLAAC (or anyone partaking in such discussions) not neglect current upperclassmen who have been living under the neighborhood system for the past years.

If these changes were to occur without a grandfathering process for upperclassmen, the changes would not grant current upperclassmen preferential choice for housing in their own neighborhoods: Students who have had their eyes on the senior housing for their respective neighborhoods will have to compete with the entire upperclassmen student body for prime rooms. This is exceedingly unfair to students who have settled for sub-par housing as underclassmen, expecting their shot at the upperclassmen housing they were told they would have as a member of their neighborhood.

Many who argue against a phase-in or grandfathering system claim that residents of Spencer or Dodd Neighborhoods are biased toward this system because of the desirable senior housing in those neighborhoods. However, I don’t find that this change has a greater or lesser impact on any particular neighborhood. I believe that it is right and rational that people in all neighborhoods have the fair access to the senior or junior housing they were expecting when they first picked into their neighborhoods.

As a member of College Council and of my Neighborhood Leadership Team, I decided to ask my peers if they share this opinion. I took to the campus with a survey asking students of all class years whether they agree with the phase-in idea. The results were remarkable. Of the 111 students who responded to my survey, an overwhelming 92 percent believed that a phase-in should take place. Surely, any such data gathered under uncontrolled circumstances should be scrutinized, but the respondents were from all neighborhoods and across all class years and thus indicative of general campus sentiment regarding the issue.

The way many of the survey respondents see it, entering the neighborhood system was an explicit contract. Students were explicitly told that they would be looking at “X” sophomore housing, “Y” junior housing and “Z” senior housing if they entered “N” neighborhood. Given this information and a wealth of neighborhood-specific packets and data, students made plans for their upperclassmen lives at Williams. And based on their own tastes and their own preferences (or horrendous pick numbers), students picked into their current neighborhoods and have lived through the sophomore housing for their neighborhood – that is, they have paid their dues for their neighborhood by living in the worst housing that it has to offer. And now, when it comes time to reap the benefits of the past year or two years of commitment to a system to which they were bound, students may be told that they will have no preference whatsoever for the senior or junior housing they have had their eyes on all this time.

As a matter of principle, I find this exceptionally unfair and contend with the support of at least 102 other Williams students, that a phase-in period be in place such that any students who have lived under the neighborhood system be given preference for housing in their own neighborhood, if they choose to stay, while students who want to leave their neighborhood will be given a chance to do so in a subsequent lottery. This way, no student will feel cheated for having spent a year or multiple years under the contract of the neighborhood system.

Ali Tafreshi ’15 is a biology and psychology double major from Los Angeles, Calif. He lives in Lehman.