Housing hiccups: How this year’s housing mishaps could have been avoided

Katya Ulyanov

As we round out our first full week of classes, students and faculty are getting in the rhythm of what seems to be a return to pre-COVID-19 normality. Lecture halls are once again filled to seating capacity, dining halls are abuzz with indoor diners, and clubs and events previously halted by COVID restrictions have come back to life like phoenixes. Overall, academic and social life is blooming again with the partial lifting of the restrictions that had kept the community safe when COVID ran rampant throughout the country.

However, all things come at a price, and perhaps the price for the seemingly normal (fingers crossed!) year ahead was its less-than-ideal start. I refer, specifically, to upperclass housing. As a current sophomore living on Currier Quad — an area generally reserved for juniors and seniors — I’m not complaining. However, the events that determined my, and other upperclass students’, current residence were inconvenient and confusing.

Over the summer, I talked with my friend group several times over Zoom to discuss possible housing that would fit every group member’s needs. Some of us preferred the privacy that came with singles, some requested proximity to the science buildings, and some hoped for larger room sizes or the third-floor window views. Though we were able to find several dorm buildings that satisfied everyone’s preferences, we knew that there was a high probability of our worst case scenarios playing out. So, we prepared Plans A, B, C, etc. We paired up in the event that doubles became inevitable, and made a list of buildings to choose from if our initial picks were taken. Sophomores, after all, are usually the last on the list to pick housing during the lottery.

We still were not prepared for the chaos that ensued. In typical years, the housing lottery takes place earlier in the spring, and students are given five minutes to choose their rooms before a new group enters the lottery. As our time ticked down, Plans A, B, C, etc. all flew out the window as we scrambled to find any empty rooms available, no longer referring to the list of preferences we had perfected.

It did not help that the lottery occurred late in the summer. This summer I worked at a sleepaway camp: Internet connection was unstable, and the lottery time assigned to my group fell inconveniently in the middle of a work shift. My friends from across the country or overseas also had issues with time zone differences. While the College perhaps anticipated these issues by allowing members of a group to assign rooms for their fellow group members, these problems could have been easily avoided by having the housing lottery occur during the spring semester when students were still on campus.

Perhaps the biggest complaint from this year’s housing lottery was the lack of enough beds. The College had to open Thompson Hall toward the end of the housing lottery because the students looking for on-campus housing outnumbered the beds available. In hindsight, the College should have been prepared for the increase in students, what with the larger incoming first-year class as well as the return of upperclass students from gap years and remote learning.

The chaos didn’t end with the housing lottery, unfortunately. Most students who arrived on campus were shocked to find that their College-provided storage boxes from the previous year were still in storage. I was lucky enough to have to spend only two nights sleeping on an empty mattress — a friend of mine who arrived early for an on-campus work commitment spent about a week waiting for his bedding to be returned from Connors Brothers storage. I can only imagine what it was like for students who arrived even earlier, during First Days, EphVentures preparations, or athlete practices.

Frustrations grew when the delayed storage boxes were opened to reveal that their contents had become moldy or damaged (I spent an entire day in the laundry room adding substantial amounts of baking soda to my sheets). Other students reported never receiving their boxes at all because they were lost in storage or transport.

Like the majority of my fellow students, I am extremely grateful to be back on campus for a quasi-normal school year (knock on Wood!). Still, the College could have been more prepared for the greater number of students seeking on-campus housing. The housing process could have gone more smoothly if the College had simply done the lottery earlier, made more beds available beforehand, and (with Connors Bros.) improved storage box arrival. Let’s hope that these first few complications are but remnants of last year’s chaos and that the semester goes uphill from here.

Katya Ulyanov ’24 is from Stamford, Conn.