GW allows students to remain in current housing

Upperclassmen living in nearly all residence halls will be able to remain in their current rooms next year following a significant policy change by Housing Services. Residents of New Hall and single-occupant rooms will be the only students excluded from the policy.

The plan will allow sophomores and juniors living in eligible buildings to bypass the annual housing lottery by remaining in their rooms with current or new roommates. All students will be able to receive housing lottery numbers before determining whether or not they wish to remain in their current location or seek off-campus living.

“In talking to students about the advantages of off-campus housing, one of the things they told me was that they could rent an apartment and keep it for as long as they wanted,” said Andrew Sonn, director of Housing Services. “With (this plan), students know they’ll be able to keep the same room for two years.”

Officials have been developing the initiative – dubbed “squatters’ rights” since last fall but did not determine which halls would be included until a few weeks ago. Sonn said Housing Services kept certain residence halls out of the plan according to a Residence Hall Association request.

“New Hall and singles have always been the most desirable, most demanded rooms on campus,” said Matt Frisbee, RHA president. “We wanted those to be open to everyone in the lottery, whereas with other halls … there’s not as large of a demand for them, so we don’t see a problem in allowing students to squat in rooms there.”

Although the RHA originally suggested 1957 E Street and City Hall, two other desirable halls, also be omitted from the plan, Frisbee said the University felt it was important that as many halls as possible be included.

Some students with more humble accommodations said that while there are advantages to the plan, it will not benefit all students.

“It’s kind of unfair because we have less of a chance of getting out of The Schenley,” said sophomore Hadass Mor, who lives in a Schenley Hall double. “But I guess if I was in a nicer building I’d want to keep my room. It’s a double-edged sword.”

Other students said allowing residents to secure more long-term housing options is appropriate with GW’s urban environment.

“I think there’s something to be said for being able to have a place to stay for more than a year when you’re at college. It creates a better atmosphere,” said junior Conor Kay, who lives in 1957 E Street.

The squatters’ rights plan is one of several changes being made to the housing system for the 2004-05 academic year, all of which the University will be advertising later this week. Several of the policies are designed to make on-campus housing more attractive for juniors and seniors, officials said.

But Sonn said all plans are experimental and could be changed next year.

“We don’t really know if a lot of people will move back in, given the chance,” Sonn said. “We don’t know if a lot of people will squat, given the chance. It’s just kind of wait and see.”

Other initiatives for next year include an expanded Scholars Village featuring coed housing options and a plan that will allow students living off campus to re-enter the housing selection process. GW is adding three Scholars Village townhouses on 22nd Street that will house 15 students each in separate communities they create.

Students looking to live in a townhouse must submit an application to the Community Living and Learning Center by Feb. 2. Applications are available at http://gwired.gwu.edu/cllc.

The University is also adding several options for Greek-letter groups on Foggy Bottom and the Mount Vernon Campus, besides the semester-old Townhouse Row. Housing Services will offer two residence halls on the Mount Vernon Campus and possibly three townhouses in Foggy Bottom, including two nine-bed houses located on 22nd Street and a 16-bed facility on G Street, next to the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house.

Groups may also live in Francis Scott Key Hall and the International House, with one chapter occupying one floor.

Courtney Barry, coordinator for student involvement in Greek Affairs, said 10 chapters were being interviewed last week.

She said it is “definitely a possibility” for all fraternities and sororities to receive communal campus housing within the next three years.

Intent-to-Return forms must be submitted online between Feb. 9 and 16, with the online housing selection process set for Feb. 29 for rising juniors and seniors and March 7 for rising sophomores. Students wishing to live on the Mount Vernon Campus can pre-select housing there starting Feb. 21 on a first-come, first-served basis. This is the first year students can pre-select Mount Vernon.

Housing officials said they are confident the process will proceed without the weeks of problems that plagued last year’s lottery, when numbers were distributed on a non-random basis because of a technical glitch and had to be reissued. The University also considered buying a property in Rosslyn, Va., because of a housing shortage but decided against it because of lack of student interest.

Kerry Washburn, director of administrative applications for Information Systems and Services, said the selection program was redesigned to root out any possible problems.

“Right now we’re doing every test we can to be sure the system is free of problems before the housing selection period begins,” she said.

ISS officials said they reprogrammed the code used to pull the lottery numbers and that numerous trial runs have produced results that are “well within the range of what the test would consider random.”

-Julie Gordon contributed to this report.

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