One suite, two suite, good suite, bad suite

By Middlebury Campus

Housing registration for juniors and seniors at Middlebury sucks the big one. It’s overly convoluted, illogical, stressful and frustrating. Even when everything goes smoothly, as it did this year, and we avoid debacles like last year’s, the system seems to cultivate stress and anxiety when there really doesn’t need to be any. It’s too late for me; as a rising senior, I’ll be worrying about leases and rent next spring, rather than random lottery numbers. But for the sake of all future Midd Kids, it should be at the top of the College’s priority list to fix the housing registration system. Here are some ideas:

Give every block size a separate registration window. Making blocks of five, four and three apply in one fell swoop makes no sense at all. As it stands, a group of five friends applying for all three block sizes must choose two friends who will be severely shafted if the five-or four-block doesn’t come through. If they were separate registration windows, it would give the fourth and fifth wheels the chance to attach themselves to another block for a new application, instead of waiting for singles draw to salvage what they can with their number.

Don’t be so mysterious with the numbers. After every round of registration, it would be very helpful if they released which numbers were used in that round. That way, we would know what our numbers actually mean (i.e., #55 is actually #41 after six-block draw), and allow us to more accurately gauge our chances of getting the housing we want. This is a change that might not produce any tangible difference for the ultimate housing assignments, but it would reduce stress and generally increase the transparency of the process. Best of all, it would be so easy to do.

Don’t limit the number of available blocks. Living in a suite or house with friends should be a luxury reserved for people who get stellar numbers. But living near friends in general should not be a luxury; in fact, it should be guaranteed at a College charging over $50,000 in tuition. A group of four friends with lousy numbers should still have a chance to live near each other, even if they have to settle for a mediocre dorm. The reform here is simple: don’t block rooms together until all applications have been received. Students will apply to individual hallways (i.e., Starr 5, Painter 2, Forest West 3, etc.), ranking them in the order of their preference (much like they do now, with pre-defined blocks). Then, when you know how many groups of six (or five, or four, etc.) want to live together, assign them all blocks in the order of their dorm preference. After doing blocks of six, move to five, then four, then three, and so on. It’s like that activity in science class where you have to fit small rocks and big rocks into a cup. If you do the small rocks first, the big rocks just sit on top and won’t fit. But if you put the big rocks in first, the small ones fill in the cracks and they all fit. Much of the anxiety of housing registration comes from people wanting the best housing possible, but a much more significant portion comes from people being scared that they will get stuck in Hepburn while the rest of their friends live in Chateau. Eliminating a pre-defined set of blocks would prevent groups of friends from being needlessly split up, and would reduce the stress and tensions of registration.

Put on-campus housing registration BEFORE off-campus housing applications are due. At the very least, make off-campus applications due after the random numbers are released. That way, if you get screwed by on-campus housing, you can avoid Summer Draw by banding together with other on-campus housing rejects and getting a house off-campus. Students shouldn’t have to be forced to choose to live off-campus before they know what their on-campus housing prospects look like.

These are just a few changes that could very easily be made to our housing registration system over the course of the next 10 months. People will always complain if they get a bad number, but there are more universally regrettable features of the housing system that are bound to irk everyone from one to 1,500. Personally, I feel the live draw is a better and overall more fair system (picture sophomore year room draw on a larger scale), but the application system we have can work if those in charge are willing to take feedback and suggestions from the student body. We are, after all, the ones who have to live with your decisions.