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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Editorial: Housing doesn’t have to be this stressful

Published: March 3, 2006
Section: Opinions

As Brandeisians of all strides consider their midterm exams and paper assignments, one concern is keeping many students from fully concentrating on their studies. It is March, and the drama of the housing lottery is in full swing.

Why is it that students are so concerned about their housing fate? Unfortunately, some of the blame must rest on the Department of Residence Life. It is the lottery-based housing selection process that causes tensions to run so high on campus during March housing madness.

Residence Life tries to keep students calm by providing a new housing theme every year, and treating students to films during selection day. While we can appreciate the efforts of the department to make the selection process more relaxing, it may be a worthy endeavor to address the causes of housing stress.

Admittedly, the sheer shortage of housing options, rather than the housing process, is the true difficulty in housing process. We are thankful for the work of the administration to build more housing on campus. Residence life is also doing its part, by making on-campus housing options more viable. They have introduced thematic learning communities (TLCs) and neighborhoods in the conventional dorms on campus.

Given the unfortunate limit on housing options on campus, and the apparent interest in maintaining the lottery system, why not seek to improve our system to reduce overall stress?

First, why not assure students on their housing letters that they will almost certainly get housing if they so require (a statement that is, by all past measures, true)? Instead of this simple assurance, residence life simply wishes students the best of luck. This does nothing to quell the fears of the student body. It simply makes the housing lottery feel like a crapshoot, and the uncertainly in our housing fate remains even after numbers are distributed.

Second, why not distribute housing numbers via email or SAGE? After the university has spent about a million dollars on PeopleSoft software, it may as well be put to use. Instead of printing out and sending thousands of costly color housing letters, simply notify students of their numbers electronically, so that they can find their number sooner, instead of making them eagerly wait until they can get to their mailbox.

Third, why not make the results of the housing selection process of past years fully open to students? With a past record of the housing obtained by each number, the student body will be forced to be realistic regarding the possible success that could be achieved with certain numbers. Obviously there will be some fluctuation in the relative success of numbers from year to year, but students could feel more certain about their situation if they knew more about what their number could give them on selection day.

Finally, we ask Residence Life to be less careless with the process. As they were promised that they would be available before vacation, students planned on waiting on campus before break until their numbers arrived in their mailboxes. This was until learning they would not be entered before 5 PM. There were reports of students receiving incorrect numbers, and students receiving no numbers at all. These are unfortunate, preventable mistakes that stress out the student body unnecessarily.

An ounce of stress prevention is worth much more than a pound of immaterial distractions on selection day. We encourage the Department of Residence Life to consider these points in the future.