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Feb

27

The Barnard Housing Lottery, Explained

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Barnard’s got a new housing lottery system, and everyone is shivering with antici…pation. SGA Bureau Chief Dassi Karp visited last night’s meeting to find out more – as in, what even is it? 

Last night, Barnard’s Student Government Association welcomed Matt Kingston, Associate Director for Housing Operations, to talk about the college’s new housing lottery system and answer questions. Kingston spoke kindly, confidently, and assuredly. He also seemed genuinely happy to be there and just as happy to help pass the SGA microphone around the room.

Unfortunately, not this kind of lottery.

This year, Barnard Res Life was able to purchase access to StarRez software, an “industry leader” in housing lotteries. This particular software is used by many other colleges across the country, including CC and SEAS . Yup, that’s right–Barnard has decided to do something the same way Columbia does. A wonderful move, Res Life–how about we apply the same philosophy to guest sign ins? Kingston praised the system for using a process that people can understand that is flexible enough for last minute changes and adjustments to housing groups.

“There was no housing software company that would run the housing lottery the way we were before,” he explained, so the new process is a bit different than the one used previously.

  • Different stages of the lottery will happen in sequence, determined not by class year but by suite size. First, students will have the opportunity to form groups and pick into suite-style housing, starting with four-person suites, then five-person, then six.
  • The smaller suites will be chosen before the larger ones, so changes will be about “adding people, instead of breaking apart.” This seems like a major impetus for the new system. In the old lottery system, changes to housing groups tended to involve last-minute ditching of suite mates for better numbers or smaller, unclaimed spaces. “That was in some ways more stressful to people,” Kingston explained. “People were not picking based on who they wanted to live with.”
  • After the four-, five-, and six-person suites are picked, one day will be dedicated to one-, two-, and three-person housing options. Groups in all selections will share a housing number. Until this year, every Barnard student was allotted her own lottery number, and a group would default to the highest number. This method tended to prioritize people who would band together in “blocks” for single and double rooms in dorms like Hewitt and Sulz Tower, because they had a better chance of getting a higher lottery number. “We found that people who were picking as individuals didn’t have equal chances of picking into singles,” explained Kingston. The new system should belay that problem.
  • Students who form groups in the earlier stages of the lottery will have the option to not pick, and form a different sized group the next day. Lottery number preferences will be based on a “group point average.” This mention of GPA seemed to generate a shudder through SGA. But we pulled ourselves out of the burgeoning thought spirals of midterms and transcripts and re-focused on the matter at hand. This GPA will be calculated according to the class years and presented as a single number. An example from the handy Res Life handout: A group with 3 rising Seniors and 2 rising Juniors will be averaged as 260 points (300 + 300 + 300 + 200 + 200 = 1300/5 =260 points). This group would come after groups of all rising Seniors (300 group point average) and before groups of all rising Juniors (200 group point average). Between groups with the same GPA, lottery numbers will be generated randomly. You will be familiar with this process “if you have friends who go to school across the street,” Kingston added. A crazy proposition.

SGA members had questions. University Senator Kira Dennis asked about how students should pick rooms within suites. Before, she said, groups tended to decide to give the people with the highest lottery number preference in choosing better rooms. Now that the group would only get one number, there’s no external method to decide. Kingston had a practical solution, saying “I would hope that groups would have those conversations with each other.” Reactions included snaps from some and shock from others (talk? to each other?).

Junior Rep to the Board of Trustees Tamar Dayanim asked about the potential of students having technical difficulties with the new software. For those with similar worries, check out the tutorials already posted on the housing website.

Other members asked about Sulz Tower, which is usually viewed as senior housing, but now is being picked on the last day. Some students have been asking that Sulz Tower be available for larger groups to pick in to. Kingston explained again that this new system makes it so that people choosing alone can have a chance for good housing, because “not everybody wants to be in a big group.” So this policy is not changing.

Smaller groups of students or individuals will no longer be able to pick into larger suites, except for the very few 9-person and 7-person suites, will be open on 1/2/3 day for students who want to pick into a suite but don’t have a group.

Overall, this seems like a good move, unless Barnard’s internet decides to stop working when everyone logs onto the housing portal at once. But we’ll deal with that when it happens. If you have any questions or concerns, check out the housing website for a list of info sessions and tabling times. And, if you really want, you can pick your housing online in the Res Life office, where you can be walked through the process the way you would walk your grandmother through checking her email. “I’m a little sad that I’m not going to see all the students during the lottery,” said Kingston. “But this is a good new system.”

In other news:

  • SGA elections are coming up soon, and Senior Rep to the Board of Trustees and head of the Elections Commission Jessica Reich encourages people to run. The upcoming information sessions will be “super fun, super chill, super enjoyable.” I can’t imagine what could possibly live up to that description. I suggest you run for SGA and go and find out.
  • Linda Gordon, Co-Chair of the Committee on Arts and Culture, came to the meeting to remind students to submit proposals to paint a new mural in Hewitt Dining Hall. The deadline has already been significantly extended, and it doesn’t sound like they’ve received any viable submissions. If you can paint, do it. Make something that people will have to stare at while eating their french toast sticks forever.

Lottery Scratch Ticket via graphicphotos

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