Massachusetts Daily Collegian

ResLife changes housing selection process

By Katie Landeck

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In an effort to help alleviate some of the anticipated difficulties caused by a projected on-campus housing shortage next year, Residential Life has made some changes to its housing selection process, according to Executive Director of Residential Life Edward Hull.

Shaina Mishkin/Collegian

Unlike in previous years, rising sophomores will now be given priority during the selection process, according to Hull. Rising juniors and seniors, though, will no longer be guaranteed housing and will be placed in a housing lottery.

“This year, sophomores will be given priority consideration to secure on–campus housing for fall 2012,” said Director of Student Services Dawn Bond, whose office is overseeing the changes. “Previously we used a seniority-based process where the longer you lived on campus, the earlier your appointment date and time was for selecting an assignment on campus.”

This hybrid model – which gives rising sophomores priority and then puts both rising seniors and juniors into a lottery with equal footing – was recommended to ResLife by the Residence Hall Association [RHA]. The RHA is an elected body of on-campus students and Residential Area Government officers that, according the RHA website, “represents all students living within the residence halls to the Student Government Association and Residential Life.”

“We adopted it because it responds well to the developmental needs [of] sophomores that are increasingly being supported in research,” said Hull.

According to Hull, the new model will still be used even when there is no housing shortage.

In a document titled “Residence Hall Room Selection Priority: 2012-13 Academic Year,” members of the RHA were informed by Hull in late January that ResLife expected  approximately 200 students who would like to live on-campus would be forced to seek other arrangements in fall 2012.

According to Bond, this information strongly influenced the RHA’s decision about which model to adopt.

“Students were very concerned that if demand exceeded our occupancy in our halls then sophomore students would be the ones that would have to look for off-campus housing,” said Bond. “Students in RHA voted for the hybrid because it ensures that sophomore students will be able to secure housing and that juniors and seniors will have an equal chance at securing housing.”

According to Director of RHA and student Emma Allen, the RHA was overwhelmingly in favor of the proposal. Originally, the RHA planned two rounds of voting, one to establish a  two final plans and one to pick the ultimate finalist. However, Allen deemed the second vote unnecessary after the first vote showed the hybrid model to have a clear majority.

To come to this conclusion, RHA members talked to people they knew and some students organized online polls, according to Allen.

Allen described the housing predicament as a “lose, lose situation.”

“There’s going to be a certain group of students that didn’t get what they want no matter what,” said Allen, who added that “change is scary.”

The room selection priority numbers, which can be higher than 16,000, are already posted onto SPIRE, the University’s online content management system. According to Bond, the number was randomly generated by a computer.

Allen said the while the room selection priority number may look scary at first, it is most likely not as bad as it seems.

“The 7,000 people below you might not be living on campus,” said Allen.

Students who want to live on-campus need to select a housing appointment by Thursday, April 5, or they will not be able to receive on-campus housing in the fall, according to a document published by ResLife titled “12 Things You Need to Know About Fall 2012 Online Housing.”

For students who are unsure of whether they want to live on campus next year, Bond suggests they make a decision by spring break.

“If they are not going to live on campus, don’t select an assignment. This is for two reasons,” said Bond. “They are potentially taking away a bed from someone else who wants to live on campus and … there is a cancellation fee once you select.”

Bond said the problems students most frequently run into are “missing the deadlines, not understanding how online room selection works in SPIRE and not being prepared to make hard decisions if their top choices are not available at the time of their appointment.”

To make the process easier, she suggests students read the material posted on ResLife’s website and on its Facebook page, “Living at UMass Amherst.” She also recommends that people with questions call her staff at 413-545-2100.

Katie Landeck can be reached at [email protected]

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