Lottery changes rile RHA representatives

Concerns that women with high lottery numbers might be housed at the Mount Vernon campus against their wishes were raised at a Residence Hall Association meeting Jan. 18, when residential life administrators met with students to discuss this year’s housing lottery.

The conflict stemmed from a change in this year’s lottery rules meant to shorten the guaranteed waiting list, said RHA President Justin Lavella.

The discussion at Monday’s meeting led to a change in policy by Wednesday, Lavella said. He said administrators assured him female students who lived on the Foggy Bottom campus this year will be placed on the guaranteed waiting list if Mount Vernon is their last option and they choose to refuse a room there.

In a change from previous years, students cannot reject the rooms they are offered in the housing lottery in favor of a spot on the guaranteed waiting list, which could mean a better room when vacancies open. This year, students who refuse the rooms offered in the housing lottery will be placed on a non-guaranteed waiting list.

Students who are not offered rooms in the housing lottery because all spaces are filled before their number is called still will be placed on the guaranteed waiting list.

The concerns arose when GW administrators told RHA members that female students whose last option was housing at Mount Vernon also would be put on a non-guaranteed waiting list if they opted to turn down a room on the women’s campus, RHA member Cathy Resler said.

“We were surprised,” she said. “If there was even a possibility that female students would have to go to (Mount Vernon) when they wanted to live at Foggy Bottom, there certainly had not been sufficient communication of that to the students.”

In the wake of the meeting, several RHA members said the decision was sexist because only female students faced the possibility of being moved out of Foggy Bottom to the all-women’s campus.

“At first, I felt discriminated against as a woman,” said RHA member Apoorva Sabnis. “Why would they do that to us?”

“I wouldn’t call it sexist,” Lavella said. “I would call it unfair because these are Foggy Bottom students who don’t want to live at Mount Vernon.”

Lavella said he was unsure if being placed on the guaranteed waiting list will prevent students from eventually being moved to Mount Vernon if no other spots are open.

Mark Levine, assistant dean of students, declined to comment on the specifics of the housing arrangement.

“We are still trying to finalize the (Mount Vernon) situation,” he said, adding that administrators are “still in conversation and looking at several options.”

With the Feb. 5 deadline to enter the lottery less than two weeks away, housing officials plan to meet with the RHA executive board Monday night to finalize plans, Levine said. But he said students will have adequate time to decide whether to enter the lottery.

Levine also said once the administration finalizes its policies on Mount Vernon housing, updated information might be included later this week in a letter to students that informs them of their number of credits.

Levine said numerous students have called the Community Living and Learning Center to ask about Mount Vernon housing. He said the likely scenario is more students will want to live at Mount Vernon than can be accommodated in the 50 spots.

Levine said the campus’ programs also have been popular, and many students enjoy eating at the dining hall.

“Students are interested in Mount Vernon,” he said.

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