If the past is any indication, the housing lottery – set to begin Sunday – promises to be a stressful experience for students unable to acquire the room of their choice. Adding to the anxiety are flaws in the housing lottery system. From auctioning top picks to requiring students to sign leases when they first see their choice of rooms, this year’s housing lottery incorporates provisions that are unfair to average GW students.
While proceeds from “Martha’s Marathon” benefit housing scholarships, the practice of auctioning the best lottery numbers is distasteful on a campus where students come from a wide range of economic situations. Only students who can shell out as much as $2,000 for a lottery number can participate, and others who cannot afford GW’s ultra-expensive price tag are unfairly squeezed out of the bidding. Everyone should have an equal shot at the top lottery pick, regardless of his or her family’s income.
As for scholarships, GW charges too much for residence hall rooms. With this in mind, the University should already offer housing scholarships. Students should not have to pool their money through auctions and fundraisers to help each other pay exorbitant room rates.
Once students do get a number and the chance to select a room, they quickly face a very expensive choice that must be made immediately. If a student wants a room on campus, he must sign a lease on the spot – a lease with lots of buffer room for the University but with very limited provisions for students to opt out of a housing choice.
According to D.C. law, landlords must provide tenants the ability to cancel a lease if apartment conditions are unsatisfactory or if defects exist that the tenant was not informed about prior to signing a lease, among other provisions. But GW is not subject to these laws, and seems to use this to bind students into costly agreements months before move-in.
Students should have access to the best rooms in the housing lottery, and should not feel obliged to pay thousands of dollars to obtain them in a fundraiser for scholarships GW should already provide. The system for choosing rooms should also be more flexible and allow students to choose off-campus housing after enduring the lottery process. With many off-campus options that cost less than University housing, to do otherwise is to put already over-charged students at a financial disadvantage.