Altered Housing Selection Process Elicits Student Concerns

The return to a pre-pandemic general housing selection process, taking place this week, has come with one notable change: students can no longer receive a selection time as a group. The change has elicited concerns from some students who wish to live in close proximity to their friends.

Running from Tuesday, April 12, to Thursday, April 14, the 2022-2023 general housing selection process has taken a form different from both the process used since the pandemic began and the system in place before the pandemic. In no longer assigning group housing assignments or allowing students to receive selection times as groups, the new process has elicited concerns from some students trying to live in close proximity to their friends.

In a shift away from the Covid-era system in which students ranked their dorm preferences as groups and were assigned their rooms by Housing Operations, this year marks the first time students are selecting their own rooms since the pandemic began. In a March 10 email from Housing Operations, students were informed of their randomly assigned selection number, which determines the start time for the window in which they may choose their room, with lower numbers corresponding to earlier times.

The email also announced a notable change from pre-Covid years in the discontinuation of “time groups,” which had allowed students who wished to live near each other to form groups and select rooms at a time based on the average of their selection numbers. With this process, students were not made aware of their selection numbers, and only received a selection time after confirming their group.

While students under the new process can form a roommate pairing and select a room using the lower of their two numbers, no larger groups are permitted. Students who wish to live in a group were advised to delay their selection until the time slot assigned to the group member with the highest selection number — and therefore the latest time. Other advice included applying to a theme community or participating in the suite selection process, which provided students with selection windows based on averaged individual selection numbers among their groups.

In a statement to The Student, Dean of Students and Chief Student Affairs Officer Liz Agosto said, “The decision to not use time groups during this housing selection process was made to allow all students equal access to all of the available housing options while still maintaining the opportunity for students to choose to live in closer proximity to each other.”

Time groups contributed to inequitable distribution of housing assignments in “advantag[ing] larger cohorts of peers in creating adjacent, insular blocks of assignments within a residence hall,” the March 10 email said.

Several students expressed dissatisfaction with this change to the housing selection process.

Annika Paylor ’24 explained that this system has created social difficulties for some students.

“You’re going to want to pick a friend with a [better] number, right? You’re going to try and find someone else even if you’re not as close friends with them. That could definitely create some tension,” she said.

Grace Cho ’23E, whose selection number is 510 out of 525 seniors, didn’t feel that asking her friends to wait for her selection window was a valid option.

“My friends got assigned numbers on the lower end of [the selection numbers]. I kind of have to wait and see what’s left for me,” she said.

Paylor remarked that students with accommodations can’t afford to wait for their friends’ selection windows.

“That’s honestly a very ableist perspective … Certain people just couldn’t live in Tyler or Seligman; the walk would be too much. Or you know how certain students with allergies have to live in dorms that have carpet-free rooms … So you have to guarantee that you can live in one of those dorms. And if you wait until the last pick, that’s not a guarantee anymore,” she said.

Gillian Quinto ’23 echoed this sentiment. “And for people with accommodations, they sort of have to choose whether they want to live together with friends, or exercise the use of their accommodations, which I think is f — ed,” she said.

Quinto expressed that the suggested alternatives to participating in the general housing selection process are not adequate substitutes for traditional group-based selection either. She pointed out that theme houses are not available to all students. “The only one I’m eligible for is the Zu [Humphries House]. I mean, I guess Marsh [Arts House], but I’m not an artist,” she said.

Quinto also noted that applications for theme communities closed on March 9, a day before the March 10 email was sent out.

Some students predicted that the housing selection process could lead to a more fragmented campus next term.

“I think, if anything, [the new housing selection process] could create more division within the community because students aren’t able to spend time more casually, as they normally would, when they live around each other,” Cho said.

Quinto felt similarly. “The situation of having more people solo on floors — I don’t see how that’s going to help floor engagement, community bonding, any sort of thing like that,” she said.

Paylor also expressed concern for student well-being. “Students who are socially isolated are significantly more likely to have mental health problems and on top of the lingering effects of the pandemic, it just doesn’t make sense,” she said.

In response to student concerns, Agosto stated, “The Housing Selection Process has many competing priorities; we look forward to working with students in the coming year to review and revamp the process to support their living and learning experience in the residence halls.”