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Requests for Housing Changes to be Binding

By Brian Loux


The undergraduate housing transfer procedure has been changed this year to include a new lottery system and a binding agreement to transfer if given an opening.

Manager for Undergraduate Residential Services Denise A. Vallay wrote in a Fall Housing Notice e-mail, “if you file a housing request form, and you receive a new assignment, then you must move.” Vallay was unavailable for comment.

“There will be a lottery at the end of April for all house transfers,” said Dormitory Council President Matthew S. Cain ’02. Students “can select [at maximum] three or four dorms or as few as they wish, with the understanding that ‘If I’m given one of these, then I will accept this.’” The program is only a pilot, Cain said, and it is unclear whether it will continue in the following years.

Applications for the lottery must be received by April 10 to be guaranteed a spot in Simmons Hall, or by April 20 otherwise. “Medical needs are a separate issue and will be handled on a case by case basis,” Cain said.

The policy change was announced to those on the application waiting lists, who were given a chance to alter their requests in response.

Lottery replaces faulty list system

Cain hailed the new program as much more simple and efficient. “It will make a few people happier by making it a little more obvious what's going on and when they're going to find out” the results, he said.

Problems in the old system prompted the introduction of the new lottery, Cain said. DormCon, Vallay, and a group of students worked to create a new, improved procedure.

Prior to the change, “if you want to change where you are being housed, ... when a space opens up they offer it to you. You can accept or decline it. It is not efficient and many people are frustrated,” Cain said.

Debbie Cheng ’04 was one person who faced problems with the housing system in the past. “[My roommate and I] were 12th in line for Baker at one point and then we moved 18th for some reason,” she said. “I didn’t understand the process at all.”

“Normally we had a very long list for house-to-house switches that many on the list have complained about,” said Director of Housing Operations Karen A. Nilsson, who signed off on the lottery plan. “The lottery is a much better way to go.”

Mandatory move questioned

The installation of a mandatory move has sparked some controversy. Initially, the required move was expected to go hand-in-hand with the lottery system. Others doubt the necessary of requiring students to commit to moving and say it may result in a reluctance to use the system.

“These are not big changes,” Nilsson said. “This is not a real change in policy.” Nilsson added that she did not expect that those who sign up for a transfer would decline their choice of dormitory.

Others, however, have done just that.

W. Maria Wang ’04 received an offer from her first choice dorm but declined the offer after learning more details.

“I applied for a transfer to McCormick and they told me I got in a few weeks ago,” she said. “I asked Denise Vallay whether the room was a triple with freshmen, which I didn’t want. She informed me that it was a triple, and I therefore decided not to move.” Wang said the new system has given her second thoughts about transferring.

“I don’t think many people will start being reluctant to move with this new system,” Cain said. “It may irk a couple people but it will not have a huge effect.”

Simmons recruiting changes little

The new policy has also created unique situations for the Simmons dormitory.

“There was no relation between the lottery and Simmons,” said Simmons Steering Committee Co-chair Vikash Gilja ’03. “This is something they have been trying to implement for a while. I don’t think it affects Simmons in any way.”

While those who sign up for Simmons as a first choice before April 10 are guaranteed a spot, others may still request a spot after that date. Participants also have until April 10 to back out.

“The mandatory clause will probably not have a big effect on applicants,” Gilja said. “It’s really just a direct transfer. Right now we’ve had about 198 on the list, but there probably will be fluctuation.”

Some students disagree. Wang, who had earlier planned to move to Simmons, said she was unsure about the change in policy. “Originally I was planning to see how the room lottery turned out and see who my neighbors were going to be,” she said.

“There will obviously be changes to how the dorm is forming up until August,” said Ruth M. Perlmutter ’04, who hopes to transfer to Simmons in 2003. “I think people should reserve the right to withdraw their application until then.” Perlmutter, however, is not withdrawing her own application for the dorm.

Gilja said that since the announcement of the lottery implementation, about 20 students have signed up for Simmons.