Students Critique Housing Selection Process in Light of Website Crash

Rachael Franchini ’19, Editor-In-Chief

Angie Harris, associate dean of residence life and housing, maintains that “overall, the [housing] system works well,” despite housing selection website malfunctions and student dissatisfaction that occurred during the housing selection process last week.

The current housing system at Dickinson enters students into a room selection process based on their graduation year, with rising seniors having priority of picking the first night, rising juniors picking the second night and rising sophomores choosing the third night.  Students are “randomly” given a time slot during their night, according to Harris.  15 students pick every five minutes, starting at 6 p.m.

However, at the beginning of the second night, when juniors were set to select their housing, the system crashed and no students were able to log onto the school website nor access the housing website.

“Unfortunately, the software failed, keeping some groups from being able to select housing at their assigned time,” Harris explained.  “When we were able to get in and look at what happened, 30 students had assigned housing.  So, instead of the 45-60 eligible groups, only four to five were able to select housing.”

Several students reported that they were unhappy with the website malfunctions the night of rising junior room selection.

“It is absurd that the housing system crashed…” stated Seth Levin ’19. “Res life stated that they have been using this system for many years, so how have they not perfected it to a point now in which this would never happen?”

According to Harris, the college has been using this software for the past nine years.

Levin continued, “My group and I got a preferred housing arrangement on the day we were scheduled, but then had that arrangement voided because some people could not log onto the system. Now we have a less than ideal place to live, and the only thing we have to hope for is the slight chance that the waiting list is kind to us. We should have been given the place we picked the first night of housing.”

Maia Baker ’19 added that “the system crash and the delay in junior housing caused mass panic and huge amounts of campus stress.”

Jessica Espinoza ’19 echoed these sentiments, saying “it was just really frustrating that the system crashed for juniors; moving the times just seemed so annoying and kind of stressful.”

Due to the crash, rather than having the rising juniors select their rooms on Wednesday, April 19 starting at 6 p.m., they were moved to Thursday, April 20 starting at 4 p.m.  The rising sophomores maintained their selection schedule, starting Thursday, April 20 at 6 p.m.

“You [the college] know the specific times, back up your servers so this isn’t a problem, it’s ridiculous,” stated Noah Fusco ’18. “When you know you have a couple hundred [people] signing on en masse you should have a website that can handle that sort of traffic.”

Another complaint was that students felt that accommodation and disability housing was given too liberally, resulting in a lack of desirable housing options for students going through the selection process normally.

“Housing this year was an utter disappointment,” Levin concluded. “…Too many places were used for disability housing. I understand that some people need a kitchen and that others need a place that is adequately accessible for certain illnesses, but the fact that only five apartments/houses were left to the rising junior class for [groups of] five people is mind blowing. That is way too low. As sophomores, we already had to put up with living in a dorm for two years, some without a private bathroom or a kitchen or even a common room for that matter.”

“We have a four-year residency requirement at Dickinson, so it is important that we have enough beds for everyone.  Living in campus housing is a part of the Dickinson experience,” maintained Harris.

On accommodations, Harris stated, “For the fall 2017 semester, 40 students utilized their accommodation.”  This is only a one person increase from fall 2016, however it affects more than 40 students since many people with accommodations choose to live with a group.

“I heard that a lot of upperclassmen got bad housing because of the current freshman class receiving disability housing,” offered Macallan Fox ’20.  “Not to say that some people don’t need it, but being gluten free by choice shouldn’t mean you need a kitchen.”

“A committee reviews the accommodation request, verifies its validity, and make a determination of the need within our housing options,” Harris said of the process.  “Students cannot fabricate this information because we verify it with their doctor through a conversation.  We work carefully with our colleagues in Disability Services and the Wellness Center to assure that students are not abusing this process, but more importantly that students who require an accommodation are afforded that opportunity.”

Many students also voiced concerns about the housing system process in general, and the random assigning of time slots.

Baker commented, “the housing lottery times shouldn’t be assigned randomly; there should be some element of structure based on academic standing, student conduct history, GPA or some combination.”

“I think if they really want it to be fair,” Ellie Lemberg ’20 stated, “they should make it merit based. It would be an incentive for students to do well, but instead they leave it to a lottery system which screws over students that deserve to have many more housing opportunities.”

According to Harris, “on our campus it would be difficult to measure merit or campus contributions.  Students might start to argue what counts as involvement or that their involvement is more meaningful.”

She continued by adding, “Or with merit, let’s say we used GPA, students might say their major is harder than X major.  We really believe the random lottery is the fairest option available.”

“I think it’s the fairest way to do it,” Michael Murphy ’20 commented. “But there’s a big sophomore class, and as a freshman that kind of takes away my favorite options. For example, I wanted a double in KW and that was not available.”

“The most significant challenge in our room selection process is students seem to think they have a chance at getting housing that is not typically available for their room selection night,” stated Harris. “Typically, small houses and apartments go to rising seniors.  For rising juniors, they are typically able to select Morgan, McKenney, Witwer, Malcolm and K-W.  And, for rising sophomores they are typically able to select what is leftover in Morgan, McKenney, Witwer and Malcolm, and then Buchanan, Conway and Cooper.”

Harris stressed that time slots are assigned randomly, and that “the only changes we make to someone’s assigned time would be if it was assigned as a conduct sanction.”  An example of a situation that would merit a conduct sanction would be if a student did not complete their extended orientation requirements. “The assigned sanction is to change their time to the last time slot of the night,” Harris stated.

“I had friends with great time slots who didn’t attend “mandatory” orientation events and I attended every one,” said Lemberg. “I am upset that out of four really good students, [my roommates and I] ended up the last ones in Stern and were offered very limited housing opportunities although according to the rules we should have received a better time slot, or at least had the opportunity to be in a quad…I am just very upset that they tell students the lottery times are going to be based on conduct when in fact those things don’t matter.”

“Our school likes to brag about using a lottery system because it’s “fair” but it just causes severe stress to the students,” added Kelly O’Connor ’19.

“6:15 time slot and I’m in Buchanan. That’s all I have to say,” finished Olivia Yanchik ’20.

Concluding, Harris said, “I am truly sorry that our software failed, and I am truly sorry that some people got their hopes up about housing they were able to select on Wednesday.”

Harris stated that students who have suggestions on how to improve the housing system contact Student Senate at [email protected]