Changes to room draw process cause frustration

From Saturday through Monday, the Office of Student Life (OSL) held its annual general room draw for upperclass students. The lottery underwent several changes this year, including a move to the new, fully online Williams Housing Portal, the removal of Garfield House from the lottery for planned renovation and a new provision allowing students to pick into one half of a double room before all singles had been filled.

The online system itself worked smoothly, despite the release of pick numbers being delayed a day. Director of Student Life Douglas Schiazza was pleased with its functioning. “For 977 participants, we only had about 30 calls total, and most of those were simple questions, not due to problems with the system,” he said. “Overall, I do consider it a relatively successful first-time use of the system for the general room draw and housing lottery at this point, realizing we continue to learn a lot as we use the system and get feedback from students.”

Despite the platform’s success, however, many students have expressed discontent with the outcome of the room draw, largely due to the change allowing students to pick into half of a double early in the process. In past years, students could not pick into doubles alone until all singles on campus had been filled.

Specifically, some students were frustrated with the way in which some students appear to have manipulated the system by way of the gender cap to ensure that doubles picked into early on would remain solo rooms. In some houses, such as Agard House and East College, many  groups of doubles were selected early on in the process by large single-gender groups. The house would then hit the gender cap, ensuring that only students of a different gender could pick into it. Because consent is required from the first occupant for a person of another gender to pick into the second half of a double, some of the earlier occupants denied consent, thus keeping large doubles for themselves as singles.

Schiazza explained that he had feared this would occur if OSL allowed students to pick into half of doubles but made the change anyway due to increased pressure from students. “For the 15 years that I’ve been at Williams, rising seniors and juniors have expressed frustration to me about not having the option to take half of a double to keep their pick groups together, and then seeing rising sophomores with less seniority have that option later in the lottery after all the singles have been taken,” he said. “I’ve explained each time that my understanding of the reason for the rule was that rising seniors and juniors in the past would take a half-double, then put pressure on other students who would select or try to select the other half of the room later in the lottery not to take the room or to move afterward. The last few years, students have expressed to me that they thought today’s students wouldn’t do something like that and urged that we give it a try. So, we tried it this year – and I’d really hoped to be proven wrong in this experiment. Sadly, I’m disappointed to have instead been proven correct.”

As a result of discontent among both students and OSL over what occurred with these double rooms, OSL will likely be returning to its previous policy of not allowing half of a double to be picked into early on in the room draw. “We have been hearing of more situations than we’d want where students are putting pressure on each other about sharing rooms,” Schiazza said. “So it’s very likely that we’ll be returning to the ‘can’t take a half-double until all singles are gone’ rule for next year.”

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