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Housing Lottery Off to Shaky Start

By Jennifer Lane
Staff Reporter

The computerized housing lottery was delayed an hour yesterday, causing much frustration among the freshmen who had flocked to the Athena clusters at 4 p.m. to enter their preferences.

"They're expecting 1,000 people to run this by tomorrow?" asked David Wang '99. "At this rate, it's never going to happen."

However, once the program was fixed, most students found it easy to use.

S. Anders Oakland, a programmer for Information Systems who wrote the lottery program, originally thought that it crashed because too many people were trying to access the program at once.

The problem was actually a compiling error caused when he added an assignment field to the program, Oakland said.

"Once Ifigured out what was going on, it was an easy fix," Oakland said. "It's scary when the entire freshmen class is trying to use your program, and it dies," he said.

Lottery deadline 3 p.m. today

Freshmen should enter their dorm preferences into the lottery by 3 p.m. today. The system can be activated from a student's personal Athena account by typing "add forms; froshpref &"

One potential problem is that after registering for an Athena account, it takes a full day for that account to become fully active.

Oakland said that if your account is not yet fully active, you can still enter the dormitory lottery with the help of one of the consultants in the clusters.

The program allows for students to enter roommate groups of up to four people, Oakland said. Roommates should all enter the same housing choices. Ideally, all members of a roommate group should be present when one of them runs the program, Oakland said.

Altogether, there are 15 choices for women and 14 for men in the housing lottery, comprising 10 dormitories, Chocolate City, and four language houses. Men may not choose McCormick Hall.

Huntington Hall, a dormitory near Northeastern University that MIT leased for the last two years, is not a housing option this year, despite appearing in the lottery. Anybody choosing Huntington will have that choice erased, said Residence and Campus Activities Staff Associate Phillip M. Bernard.

Assignment method changed

There are a few changes in the system from last year, Oakland said. The largest change is in how the freshmen receive their assignments.

Freshmen will be able to see what dormitory they have been assigned to by simply running the program again after 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Oakland said.

Last year, freshmen received their housing assignment through electronic mail. This was ineffective because it was insecure, Oakland said. Some students hacked the system and sent e-mail to the freshmen posing as the housing lottery program, Oakland said. Freshmen were assigned to live in places such as the Campus Police headquarters or the Great Dome, he added.

This year, all assignments will be announced after 5 p.m. on Wednesday, instead of in two batches as they were last year.