We all made it (more or less) through the first year of Columbia’s new housing system. Now that we’re out on the other side, did it look any different from other years? Daily Editor Lillian Rountree scrounged through the records of this year to see what, if anything, an entirely-online system changed.
In an unforeseen bout of luck, Columbia had already decided to make the switch to online housing selection before (almost) all of us got booted off-campus and sent elsewhere, two years after Barnard made the same transition. The new system brought with it a slew of changes, from an increase in the group size to the elimination of the infamous regroups (the ability to merge smaller groups to choose into larger suites). The stated goals of the rehaul “were to reduce student stress around Room Selection, give students more options and flexibility, and to streamline the selection process.” Until we can all be cozied up in EC suites and Watt studio singles, student stress isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But how did the entirely-online process affect the availability of rooms? Do students feel like the process has been improved? Was everything going to suddenly change? The answer is likely no, but in order to be sure, Bwog did some digging to get as complete an image of this year’s new housing process as possible, and what potential ramifications might be in the future.
How did people choose?
The live availability ticker (which is now unavailable) offered some insight on availability in real-time, but without something like Barnard’s beautiful spreadsheet and graphs, information on exactly how housing proceeded this year is scant. Bwog reached out to Housing requesting any data on the process, and Housing offered no response for information on this year’s selection. Using Bwog’s own records from housing this year, these are some of the trends that dictated selection.
Like in previous years, coveted studio singles in Watt and the brownstones were gone before the first half of the first day was even over. In general, in fact, senior housing left little room for surprises—the classically “senior” dorms (Hogan, Woodbridge, Claremont, Ruggles) went to, well, seniors, and suite-style living reigned supreme. Smaller suites of three to four people were popular, leading to mainly 5+ person suites remaining available for the junior groups (though there were a tiny handful of 3/4 person suites in Ruggles and the brownstones). More notably, this was a year where nearly all the singles in Nuss (600 W 113th) went to seniors; based on past cut-off points, Nuss singles have varied wildly in popularity, with the historical cutoff points showing they have run out by the lower-lottery number seniors, lower-lottery number juniors, and even high lottery-number sophomores. Also remarkable: by the time all-senior selection finished, there was still a 5-person EC suite available, to be snapped up by what I can only imagine are some overjoyed juniors.
Aside from the neglected 7-person Claremont suites—likely ignored due to the smaller number of 7+ person groups—the final suites (mainly 5/6 person suites in Ruggles and Claremont) were taken fairly quickly, followed by the Watt studio doubles. Aside from these options, singles were the hottest commodity for juniors, with the larger Harmony singles and the final few River singles going first. By the end of junior selection, all Broadway, Schapiro, River, Carlton Arms, and Wien singles not on the all-female third floor had been taken. This mad hunt for singles spelled despair for individual sophomores and those in uneven groups—but more importantly, it defied historical cutoff trends for singles in nearly all of those buildings.
The few remaining singles and suites left for mixed groups and the most fortunate all-sophomore groups—a surprising handful of 7-person Claremont suites and the remaining singles in Harmony, McBain, Wien, and Furnald—were gone by the end of the first day of all-sophomore housing. For any sophomore not in the first 200-some to choose, a myriad of doubles remained, either with a friend, or, for the tragically hopeful sophomores choosing as individuals, a stranger. Blind double fun aside, sophomore housing proceeded rather normally, with Nuss doubles running out first, then Carlton Arms doubles. Broadway was slightly more popular than Schapiro, and, as always, McBain was the least-popular, with the most doubles going into the final day of selection.
Is this notably different from previous years?
Housing patterns always fluctuate slightly from year-to-year, but a couple of things stand out from previous years, including the popularity of Nuss singles among seniors and high-lottery number juniors; the uncharacteristic unpopularity of EC suites; the neglect of those final 7-person Claremont suites; and the high cutoff points for singles in buildings like Wien, Harmony, and Broadway.
How much of this can be attributed to the restructuring of selection? While the popularity of Nuss singles and unpopularity of that one EC suite can likely be chalked up to a quirk of the year—previous years’ cutoff data shows neither of those is unprecedented, after all—the other shifts in trends do seem to have their roots in the new online selection. The loss of senior/junior regroup likely left those awkward 7-person Claremont suites less feasible for many (who chooses a group of seven people?), allowing the luckiest and largest sophomore groups to get the suite life their fellow classmates could only dream of. This happened even after the maximum group size was increased from 8 to 10 with the new system (perhaps as a concession for the loss of regroup), suggesting that even though larger suites for 6/7/8 people exist, Columbia students still aren’t jumping to be in a large housing group off the bat. It’s also worth noting, however, that the 8-person Ruggles suites went far before the 7-person Claremont ones did, so it is also likely that it was due to the uneven group size of seven people (terrible for everything but a 7-person suite) coupled with no chance of regrouping that let the suites hang on for as long as they did.
Online selection is also the likely source for the new cutoffs for singles. Though singles were never a guarantee for even the luckiest of sophomores, past years have consistently shown cutoffs for the last singles (typically in Wien and Harmony, but occasionally in Broadway) being later than the first day of sophomore selection. Now that juniors have the freedom to choose into singles with their friends in dorms like Broadway without having to endure regroup first, it’s likely that the dream of a sophomore single will become even more of a fantasy. Oh, to be a rising sophomore in Columbia Housing…
What concerns were raised?
As with any new system, there are definitely kinks to be ironed out, and, especially considering the circumstances in which this system is first being tried, problems were destined to come up. While for the most part, students expressed appreciation at the general accessibility and clarity of the housing website and housing portal, there were also a number of complaints about gaps in the information available, particularly for juniors with worse lottery numbers and sophomores desperate for the nicest options as choices become few. Nowhere on the site, for example, is it explicitly clarified that only sophomores can choose into Furnald, with sophomores in mixed-point groups barred from selecting in; the procedure for what would happen to individuals should they need to select into blind doubles was unclear. Individuals picking before all traditional singles were taken were barred from selecting the singles in Wien that are technically “two-bedroom suites,” even as this later became an option. On the whole, however, despite the logistical challenges, most students felt that the system—despite the inherent stress of selection—was rather smooth, and no one expressed a sincere wish for the return of anything like regroups. In most cases, a call to Housing was genuinely helpful in clearing up confusion about room specifics and options (I can attest to that!).
So, what’s next?
Online housing is definitely here to stay, so if you miss the adrenaline-inducing thrill of in-person selection in the John Jay lounge… sorry? This was definitely a massive learning process for everyone, so hopefully information gaps and other errors will be smoothed out by the time housing selection 2021-2022 comes around. The trends of this year might change as people try to learn from the patterns of this year and adjust to life without regrouping—a 10-person group might guarantee that suite life for some, even if it means making some sacrifices for others; whatever you do, don’t be a sophomore choosing as an individual or in an uneven group—but with the merging of in-person and online selection, the junior single scramble seems likely to stay, leaving sophomores eternally high and dry. So perhaps in its essence, the system hasn’t changed at all: even the unluckiest seniors will end up somewhere nice; juniors will probably be okay; and, as always, sophomores are shit out of luck.
If students want to pass on their feedback about the housing process, Housing can be reached at email@example.com. If you want to share your housing experience with Bwog, put your thoughts in the comments or direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image of Claremont, now inexplicably home to sophomores, via Bwog Archives