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Major Changes Made to Graduate Housing Lottery

By Matthew Kwan


The graduate housing lottery has been revamped to minimize the number of students getting their lowest choice.

“What the [new system] means is that fewer people get their first choices, but ... fewer people [will] get last choices,” said Resident Life Associate Anthony E. Gray PhD ’01.

In past years, a handful of graduate students got assigned their fifth and sixth choices, and a few received worse choices. In the new system, no students will get fifth or sixth choices, and many more students will get their second and third choices, compared to previous years.

The previous lottery assigned all graduate students a number, said Gray, who worked extensively to upgrade the system. The housing office would then e-mail or call every student to offer them one of the rooms available. A student could then either reject or accept it.

There were two major problems with the old system, Gray said. One problem was the length of time it took. The second problem was that it “underutilized the housing supply”.

“The [old system] optimized for highest preferences,” Gray said. “It provided a maximum number of number one choices, but then it didn’t really look at how unlucky other people got.”

The large number of low choices assigned led to empty rooms. “We have a lot of empty spaces in the system, because they were offered too late or too low,” Gray said. “Empty spots mean higher rent.”

Penalty to be levied for withdraw

The housing office will also now levy a $250 fine on students who fail to accept an assignment.

“The fine is there to dissuade frivolous submissions,” Gray said.

The fine will also apply when withdrawing from the lottery between the dates of May 19 and May 23.

The deadline for submitting preferences to enter the lottery will be on Feb. 28, but applicants will be able to change their preferences any time before May 19.

“There [will be] no fine before the May 19 deadline,” Gray said.

Graduate students are guaranteed to be notified of their assignment no later than June 2, although the housing office will try to get the results in by May 23.

It “depends on when people are leaving or graduating,” Gray said. “The sooner we know, the sooner we can get results out.”

House to house switches allowed

House-to-house switches will also be permitted for next year, said Director of Housing Karen A. Nilsson.

“Currently, house-to-house switches are not permitted, ... something that will change in standard operation,” Nilsson said.

Under the new system, graduate students will be able to sign housing license agreements electronically instead of sending a paper copy to the housing office.

“When you add all that up, that’s a lot of paper,” Nilsson said. “We are not going to generate every single hard copy.”

Graduate students will also be able to look up their housing assignment on a computerized system. In the past, the housing office sent e-mails to every graduate student informing them of their housing assignment.

“We are not going to send out 3,000 e-mails,” Nilsson said. “What we’re looking to do is create a more efficient and fair lottery process.”

The lottery process will also be computerized and electronically-based. The new change was designed to speed up the housing assignment process and save lots of paperwork. “Our current process is labor-intensive,” Nilsson said. “We wanted an electronic lottery system.”

The process of computerizing the graduate lottery system follows the upgrades to the freshman undergraduate lottery system made last year. The GSC lottery system did have an electronic component in previous years, “but not enhanced to the level we want to make it next year,” Nilsson said.