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Tuesday, Apr 16, 2024

Middlebury institutes new in-person lottery for suites, raising issues for students studying abroad

<p>ResLife will hold in-person lotteries for suites this spring, raising anxieties among some students.</p>

ResLife will hold in-person lotteries for suites this spring, raising anxieties among some students.

Middlebury Residential Life will hold in-person lotteries on campus on Friday, April 5 for suite-style housing assignments, which is a new update for the housing selection process for sophomores, juniors and seniors from the online-only assignment system used in past years. 

Members of ResLife who planned the new process hope it will increase transparency and improve the overall housing selection experience, while students currently off-campus have raised concerns about not being able to attend the lottery in-person.

In a change from previous years, ResLife has opted to separate suites from the general online room selection process and conduct a lottery. According to a Feb. 14 email from Residential Life, housing selection for other suites and group housing will take place after the townhouse lottery. The traditional eight person lottery for the townhouses will now include 107 Shannon Street, and it will be open to all rising juniors and seniors.

There will be two simultaneous in-person suite lotteries, one for rising sophomores, and one for rising juniors and seniors. These lotteries will take place in Axinn 219 and 220, and there will be ResLife staff present in both a waiting room and the selection room to assist students, according to AJ Place, associate dean for Student Life.

The housing application opened to students on March 1 and will remain open until mid-April, with the various lotteries and speciality housing deadlines falling in between. 

Place wrote to The Campus about the new lottery system for suites, stating that it will separate out the lottery systems to allow people more opportunities to find their preferred housing.  

“We’ve seen success in separating out other group lottery processes in the past, which allows those groups who weren’t able to select something in that process to make a new plan heading into the next process. Shifting the suite/small house lotteries to be in person also eliminates having multiple groups trying to select at the same time,” he wrote in an email to The Campus. 

If necessary, this updated system also allows students to adjust the size of their housing group heading into the selection for singles and doubles to make finding spaces easier, according to Place. 

Students studying abroad or taking time off this spring can designate a proxy to attend the lottery during their selection time, or rely on ResLife to serve as their proxy, Place explained.

The February email announcing the new system stated that further information will be sent about proxies to all students.

Students abroad who are not able to attend expressed concern about the new in-person process. Laura Wood ’25, who is currently abroad in the United Kingdom, said she was worried about the feasibility of the proxy system given her and her friends’ situation. 

“Personally, my entire housing group is abroad right now, so we need to find someone on campus who we trust to do the process for us,” Wood wrote in a message to The Campus. “The changes just add multiple levels of complexity and stress that weren’t there when we were able to pick housing remotely. What is the proxy supposed to do if our housing preferences are full?”

While these changes may invoke some logistical complaints — especially from students who need to rely on student or ResLife staff proxies to handle their housing process — Place hopes that the changes create a smoother registration process overall. 

“We know this is a new structure and are open to student feedback,” Place added. “Ultimately our goal is to make the housing selection process as easy as we can for students.”

ResLife also plans to collect feedback from students about which process — this year’s suite lottery, or having all housing selection combined like years past — is easiest for them.

But Wood and Cecelia Caldwell ’25, who is currently abroad in Spain, remain concerned about the new system and the additional levels of complexity it adds to what is already a stressful process.

“I'm definitely disappointed that the suite lottery has moved to an in-person format. I'd have hoped that the school would be more accommodating to students off campus for the semester, given that so many incoming seniors are abroad this semester,” Caldwell wrote to The Campus. “Introducing parts of the housing process that are completely inaccessible to the majority of my group just adds an additional layer of coordination and confusion in an already tricky situation. ”

Due to the way the online Starrez Student Housing Portal works, students have to search for the room they’re interested in during selection to check its availability. With goals of easing the selection process in mind, ResLife plans on sharing a list of all suites, and updating availability as selections continue. 

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“[The list] is something we plan to share with students ahead of time, and will also be displayed in the waiting room so that students can see what is available before they select,” Place wrote. 

The in-person lottery system also assures that when a group is selecting, they are the only group selecting for that class year; students need not hastily select a suite out of fear that their slot will be claimed by someone else if they take too long. 

“We are hoping that the in-person process decreases stress for students selecting and allows us to help students place everyone into the space they want within the suite they select,” Place explained. 

In addition to the changes to the lottery process, academic and special interest housing registration now has multiple deadlines. Students interested in these locations can submit applications before the initial deadline of Friday, March 8. However, those who are not able to select a suite during the eight person and suite lotteries, and are still interested in living in an academic or special interest house, will get the chance to submit applications before the final deadline of Wednesday, April 10.

Place indicated that this change was due to specialty houses struggling to fill their rosters with people committed to the house interest. Empty rooms in specialty houses are added to the selection process for singles and doubles after their rosters have been submitted, and oftentimes students who are not interested in the theme of a house end up living there because it is the best room on campus they can find still available. 

“A common example we have seen happen in a few different language houses is students selecting a space within a language house even though they do not speak the specified language of the house… we hope this will help students and also help our specialty housing partners to be able to fill their rosters with students that are committed to the theme of the house,” Place stated. 

For those students interested in learning more about the housing options, ResLife will be holding additional informational sessions and Q&As during the remainder of the month of March. 

Place stated that his and ResLife’s goal is to provide housing information and support to students through the housing draw in the best way possible. 

“We are happy to run processes in whichever way feels more supportive and less stressful for students,” he said.

While the in-person suite lottery and other changes instituted by ResLife are part of the spring housing application process, there will still be an August draw for students who were unable to get housing in the spring. The August draw, which last year assigned housing for around 200 students, has previously faced challenges from-over enrollment and lack of sufficient housing.

A student in the class of 2024.5 spoke to The Campus about the anxieties that students can face if they are not able to get their housing settled through the process this spring.

“Living circumstances play such a vital role in our college experience… delaying this anxiety through the summer months just to face more disappointment at what options remain in August is unreasonable and unnecessary. The secondary housing lottery needs to be reassessed and, at the least, scheduled significantly earlier,” the student said.

Tejas Srinivasan

Tejas Srinivasan '24 (he/him) is an Editor at Large.

Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Tejas previously served as an opinion editor. He spent his junior year in London at King’s College. Outside of The Campus, he also hosts a podcast called Cultural Mixtapes which he started in the summer of 2022. Tejas is an English Major, on the literature track, with a music minor.