Housing lottery troubles persist

More than 170 students were still waiting to choose campus housing for next year as of Sunday evening, after a selection process marked by unexpected technical problems and room shortages caused a weekend’s worth of delays. Housing officials said junior and senior rooms were filled by about 8:15 p.m. Sunday, while sophomore housing also closed Saturday before all rising sophomores could choose rooms.

Housing Services officials said they will send an e-mail Monday to the 170 rising sophomores on the University’s guaranteed waiting list, offering them on-campus room assignments. District zoning rules require GW to house sophomores within campus boundaries.

Officials had not determined the number of rising juniors on the waiting list as of press time. They said rising juniors will be able to select from three options – The Gallery residence hall in Rosslyn, Va., one or two-bedroom apartments in Columbia Plaza or individual spots in on-campus residence halls, which will be offered on a rolling basis. Housing Services will send upperclassmen an e-mail Monday with links to the appropriate forms.

Director of Housing Services Andrew Sonn said 60 individual requests had been submitted for The Gallery as of Sunday, though he could not determine the number of available rooms left. The University is offering 125 rooms in the newly acquired luxury apartment building.

Sonn said sophomores can accept housing assignments on a rolling basis starting Monday at about noon. Top priority will be given to sophomores who could not be accommodated during the lottery. Sophomores with the lowest numbers who declined to select during their allotted time will choose next, followed by those who did not file Intent-to-Return forms, Sonn said.

Although the University had no guaranteed waiting list last year, Sonn said he is not completely surprised by this year’s need. Two years ago, more than 400 students were placed on a waiting list, forcing GW to lease City Hall and Pennsylvania House over the summer.

“We do our best to project the demand (for housing), but every year is a little different,” Sonn said.

Administrators said earlier this semester that they intended to prevent a waiting list with the purchase of The Gallery.

Despite earlier assurances that GW was conducting “full scale testing of the lottery process” prior to the April 26 and 27 lottery dates, students faced several technical glitches throughout the weekend.

Housing Services and Information Systems and Services shut down GWeb for an hour Saturday after officials realized that several New Hall rooms were double-assigned to rising sophomores. A few students in the Dakota were assigned to a room that did not exist.

New Hall’s double-booked rooms led housing officials to allow both sets of students who picked the rooms to remain in New Hall. Juniors and seniors had fewer quads to choose from on Sunday because Housing Services gave the sophomores 10 of the rooms from the sophomore pool and five from the junior and senior pool, Sonn said.

The students in the Dakota were assigned to a non-existent room 3 and received comparable rooms in the building.

“This didn’t have a great impact on availability overall,” Sonn said.

Brian Selinsky, director of Banner Applications, said earlier this month that the lottery was a “simpler process” than lottery number disbursement, which faced multiple bugs.

After GWeb came back up at 1 p.m., Housing Services pushed selection appointments back by two hours and 15 minutes to “make sure that everyone who had been missed got a chance to pick,” said Matt Frisbee, president-elect of the Residence Hall Association.

Despite the problems, Sonn said he was “really impressed with the patience, flexibility and maturity of GW students.”

But several students said they were upset with the housing selection process this year, noting last year’s smooth transition to an online lottery.

“I thought (selection) was pretty disorganized,” rising junior Maria Apud said. “It was one of the most stress(ful) days of the semester.”

Sonn said Housing Services’ greatest shortcoming this year was the need to re-issue selection numbers earlier this month.

“If I could have run one more test or spent one more hour working on the system to fix it, then I would have done that,” Sonn said. “I want every student to have the best options we have, but it’s impossible to do that. You have to just try to be fair while acting within the city’s guidelines.”

Sonn said Housing Services will continue to improve the selection process.

“Students are here to focus on their academics,” he said. “You want the living environment to enhance the academics, not detract from it. That’s our mission here. And, again, I want to thank the students for their patience and their feedback.”

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