Ruminating on Room Draw
In the past couple of days, students have received emails from the Office of Residential Life about room draw. Room Draw can be extremely stressful; after all, the placement of one’s room draw group on the room draw list might determine a significant portion of the quality of one’s social experience at the College for the entire next year. This is to a large extent unavoidable. There will always be heterogeneity in the quality of rooms and residences, and as long as a scarcity of ideal living spaces persists, the current system of prioritizing by seniority and randomizing among groups with equal seniority seems most equitable way of allocating rooms.
Nonetheless, there are certain measures that Residential Life can take to improve the Room Draw process. In the short term, this year Residential Life has lowered the required gender ratio from 45 percent of any one gender in a building to 40 percent. Based on the experiences of many students who were forced to opt out last year because of the gender quota, 45 percent was too high a number, and the reduction this year demonstrates that Residential Life has been receptive to student feedback. In the long term, however, the present system is far from optimal and there is potential for substantial change. Where students live and who they live with plays a critical role in campus social life and culture. Many of the problems with social life at the College, such a fragmentation, isolation, etc, begin with Room Draw, and reforming Room Draw presents an opportunity to help achieve broader campus goals.
For example, in order to promote gender diversity within residences, Residential Life currently relies on a quota for each building. Based on the frustration of many students who were forced to opt out last year, this system is problematic. We argue that allowing greater creativity and flexibility in determining the ranking of room draw groups would be a powerful tool in incentivizing students to adopt certain behaviors. Room draw should be random, but it does not have to be uniformly random. At present, if two room draw groups have the same LUV score, they have the same, uniform probability of landing higher than the other on the room draw list. If the College, however, wanted to incentivize students to enter Room Draw in co-ed groups, it could — not necessarily provide co-ed groups a higher LUV score — but provide them better odds of landing higher on the room draw list than non co-ed groups with the same LUV score. This of course would not guarantee gender diversity within buildings because students in the same room draw group can always choose to live in different residents, but it still may be a useful and less rigid tool than a quota in promoting that goal.
On the other hand, the current LUV system also disincentivizes Room Draw groups of students from multiple class years because it excessively punishes students from higher class years from entering room draw. For example, a Room Draw group with four sophomores and four juniors would have a LUV score of four and would choose ahead of the entire sophomore class and behind the entire junior class. Usually this is would be enough to dissuade the juniors from entering Room Draw with the sophomores even though they may be close friends and genuinely want to live with each other. Instead, what if a multi-class group with a LUV score of four, was able to be placed on the Room Draw list in the middle of the junior groups with a LUV of 5, but no higher, or the middle of the sophomore groups with a LUV of 3, but no lower, and with an equal probability of anywhere in between. This would still favor seniority but would be far less rigid than the current system and may help promote intermingling among class years.
This are just ideas, which may be not at all practical. The point is, however, that with a bit more creativity and a greater willingness to experiment, Residential Life has the potential to do more for the College then simply administer the minimum bureaucratic necessities.