When University officials first announced an online housing lottery to replace the traditional day-long line across J Street, the new system appealed to students. Just as registering for classes caught on in 1999, the new system promised to make a difficult process much simpler.
But when the Residence Hall Association learned last week that students can only select their building and room sizes and not specific rooms with the new software, the new system became much less attractive.
Administrators have known all along that students still want to select their specific rooms. This should not come as a surprise to administrators, especially because students have spent thousands of dollars in recent years to purchase a lottery number that will earn rooms such as a coveted 06 New Hall quad, probably the largest room in the housing system.
The online system was supposed to make the process less stressful and more convenient for students, but it appears that this is unlikely. For understandable reasons, some students want to avoid first-floor rooms and pick their preferred floors.
RHA President Noel Frame said that the University wants to treat upperclassmen the way it treats freshmen, in that students state their preference and the University places them accordingly. If this is true, it is unfortunate that the University would hold such little regard for the rights of students who have spent time and money in a system that appears to be valuing technology over student happiness.
Additionally, students want the opportunity to live on the same floor as their friends, a practice that was simple to arrange under the old system.
Although from an administrative standpoint the new system could offer convenience and lower costs, it still appears to be a second-best option.
If the system launches without the opportunity for students to select their individual rooms, administrators risk trading one tradition for another – long lines for one day at J Street for students complaining all year that they are stuck in rooms they didn’t want.
This is one issue where the outcome will be clear on the issue of GW meeting student wants.