It is everyone’s favorite time of the year: housing selection season. The time where everyone is wondering whether they will end up living a blissful life in Ridgewood or stuck in the swamps of East. We also know that we here at The Hoot are quite critical of the university, so we wanted to acknowledge something that Brandeis does right: the housing selection process.
Apart from the occasional allegation that sports teams are given preferential treatment in the lottery, in theory, the way Brandeis does housing is the most fair and equitable way. In case you are not aware, all students who applied for housing get a random housing lottery number assigned to them in late March. This number correlates to the order in which they get to pick their housing. Students with accommodations get first pick at accessible housing, based on which accommodations they need. Students with accommodations are allowed to pick from a select number of rooms and suites set aside for students with accommodation needs.
No housing selection system is perfect. Many college students have voiced their concerns to their institutions about how housing numbers are chosen. Even after alterations, Tufts students demanded more change to their housing system to make it more equitable and fair in order to ensure students have access to affordable housing. Marist College has a housing system based on “priority points,” according to their website. Students get more “priority points” if they have a higher GPA, are involved in clubs and organizations on campus, are a member of a sports team or if they have no disciplinary action cases on their account.
This system raises many red flags. First, it favors students who have more time to participate in campus activities, students who have to work may not have the same opportunities to join clubs. Another concern that comes with this system is the pressure it can put on students to perform well academically. On their website, Marist breaks down what GPAs correlate to how many points a student receives. If students have a bad semester, they are then penalized for it in the housing process. This also doesn’t seem fair to students across majors, with some majors being notoriously harder than others. Lastly, students may choose to participate in activities in clubs not out of interest but out of a desire to get a better housing number— which is not a good incentive.
Many colleges and universities do opt for the lottery system, similar to the one Brandeis has in places. Wofford College in South Carolina also has a lottery process system, with numbers released in mid-march and ordered by class standing. The system deviates from Brandeis in that upon receiving their numbers, students then select roommates online along with their building and floor preference. Housing then gets assigned to them in April. While the ranking of housing preference is an interesting process, it would be quite nerve wracking to not know right away whether what you selected is what you in fact get. With Brandeis’ system at least you know right away if you got your Ridge or not.
Other colleges have students pick their own lottery number or declare housing by appointment. These prospects do not appear any better than Brandeis’ system and seem as though they would cause additional stress to students who are already pretty stressed out.
The closest thing to a perfect housing system is probably Harvard which according to their website, “the Thursday before Spring Break, at 9AM, crazy upperclassmen from your assigned house will come bang on your door in all of their costumes and house gear and hand you and your blockmates the letter that welcomes you into their House.” Harvard literally sets up their housing like Harry Potter houses, a fact they themselves acknowledge on the website, and now we will feel underwhelmed when we receive our numbers via MyHousing.
Of course, no one wants to get a bad number and end up living in East. However, someone will have to live in East, because there is not enough space in the nicer dorms. Since not everyone can live in the nicer dorms, we need to find a way to figure out who gets the nicer housing. There really is no better system than the lottery system; the alternatives we discussed at other schools all come with their own issues. The only potential improvement we could think of in the system is if people got a bad number the previous year, they should get a better number the next year. This allows for people to not be stuck in “bad” housing the entire time, while others get “good” housing the entire time.
We wish everyone luck in the housing lottery! Some tips from our editorial board when selecting living situations: make sure to check the Facebook Groups if you need more people to fill out your suite, living with friends sometimes isn’t the best option, know your standards of cleanliness and when you want to go to sleep— this will help avoid roommate disagreements down the road. If you’re living in Rosie, don’t bully the people on the other side of the suite, though it should be known that one side always gets ownership of the common room. One last thing: not East.