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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Changes simplify housing lottery, give students more options

Published: March 4, 2005
Section: News

Students returned from break this week to find housing lottery numbers in their mailboxes and difficult decisions ahead about where and with whom they will live next year. This year a few changes were made to the lottery process that will benefit students, according to Director of Residence Life Maggie Balch and East Quad director Jeremy Leiferman.

Rather than the traditional $200 deposit to participate in the housing lottery, students this year indicated their participation by clicking a check box in SAGE. Students who did not register with SAGE by the Feb. 18 deadline but still want to participate in the lottery will be charged $200, which will be credited to their housing costs. The computer system generates lottery numbers in advance for every student, but numbers are only revealed to students who choose to participate in the lottery process.

The decision to do away with the deposit was mainly influenced by business practices, according to Balch. Before, there was often confusion between students and parents, to whom the housing information was mailed and who often wrote the deposit checks. Now, the accountability is on the students, Balch said. If students dont register, they have no excuse.

Balch also said she was, uncomfortable with that kind of money going through the Residence Life office. In the past, there have been problems with checks being lost or misfiled. With the all-electronic system through SAGE, no money changes hands.
It was an idea that comes up every year, said East Quad director Jeremy Leiferman. However, Residence Life still needs a way of knowing who is participating in the lottery, and using SAGE presented a new opportunity to try a different approach.
While registering on SAGE required only a few mouse clicks, it did not change the basic rules of the housing lottery process housing is still only guaranteed to freshman and sophomores, and selection is through a live housing lottery. Students studying on non-approved programs are still disallowed from participating in the lottery process.

This year students will once again be able to participate in a program, debuted last year after lobbying from the Student Union, to pull-in others into a nearby double in East or the Village if their lottery number allows them to select a single there.
Residence Life also introduces two new developments this year. Thematic Learning Communities is a plan to group like-minded individuals into housing communities organized around specific themes. Students in thematic housing needed to apply and be accepted into one of three programs and do not participate in the housing lottery.
The program has been discussed for at least two years, according to Balch. In previous years, the Ridgewood residence halls have been designated as theme houses, but that process was discontinued due to increasing enrollments and other factors.

The three theme communities for the 2005 school year are, Arts, Health and Wellness, and Justice, Service and Change. Each community will include approximately 20 students along with an RA. Participants will collaborate throughout the year to plan programs and events along with other campus groups that emphasize the theme of the community.

We have taken a look at how other schools do it, and we understand that the Brandeis student community is a little bit different — we have been intentionally ambiguous about the structure of it, Balch said.

The second new aspect to housing is one-semester housing for students who plan on going abroad. According to Leiferman students who chose to participate in the one-semester-only pool have an advantage.

Youll be able to participate in a smaller room-selection process, Leiferman.said. Your odds are a little better.

The rooms for a single semester are in the Charles River apartments because students have the independence of living in an apartment and being off a meal-plan, but they dont have to worry about a year-long lease, Balch said. Students who participate in the lottery and then choose to study abroad may cancel their housing contract for the second semester, as before.

Balch and Leiferman advise students to think long and hard about what kind of study environment they want when choosing their housing for next year. Balch said that students should come to the live housing lottery with lots and lots of different options, especially sophomores.

Leiferman told The Hoot that students should seriously think about questions such as, Is living with my best friend the best solution?

The live housing lottery will take place in Usdan on Mar. 13 15. Students must bring their student ID and housing lottery letter, along with a completed pull-in form if they are puling others into housing. Students who cannot attend must send a proxy with a proxy form. Students who chose to participate in the lottery and do not attend will be charged a non-refundable $200 fee.