Many rising sophomores and juniors have voiced their concerns regarding the University’s online housing selection process which ended on Tuesday, April 28. Due to a decreased number of students studying abroad and the transition to an online selection format, many larger housing groups have been forced to break up, pushing many juniors to residence halls typically reserved for sophomore and first-year students and creating a general dissatisfaction with the communication between the Office of Residential Life (ResLife) and students.
In previous years, students have been able to visit available housing in-person during a house hopping period and create a list of their top preferences. Ordinarily, each group seeking to live in a senior wood frame house or a Fauver apartment would gather in Usdan on their assigned housing selection night, where they could see higher-ranked groups selecting their houses in real time, on a large television screen. Once their number was called, they would communicate in-person to a member of the residential life staff which, of the remaining houses, the group had decided upon.
This year, since the University has transitioned to remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the process ran online. Additionally, according to the Associate Director of the Office of Study Abroad Emily Gorlewski, 128 of the 215 students who intended to go abroad decided to remain on campus for the fall.
The sudden need to accommodate more students than initially anticipated created some problems for those managing and participating in the housing selection process, particularly for rising juniors in selecting class-appropriate housing, which includes single-occupancy rooms, HiRise, LoRise, and Program Houses. So far, the majority of rising juniors have secured class-appropriate housing, according to Assistant Director of ResLife Kieran Duffy, but more juniors are in Program Houses and Residence Halls than last year.
For rising juniors who were not placed in Residence Halls or Program Houses, many groups decided to merge with each other in order to select wood frame houses or Fauver apartments. Other groups were merged by ResLife if there were enough available spaces that matched their group size. As of Thursday, April 23, ResLife wrote in an email encouraging rising juniors to merge into larger groups that there were three four-person houses, seven five-person houses, eight six-person houses, and 24 five-person apartments, which included Fauver spaces. The email noted that ResLife staff anticipated there would be 25 more four-person groups than LoRises available and 34 more two-person groups than HiRises available.
“I also observed during the selection process that a significant number of Juniors were able to be placed in Woodframe houses as well as Fauver apartments, which also seemed to be a higher number than last year.” Assistant Director of ResLife Kieran Duffy wrote in an email to The Argus.
Furthermore, according to Duffy, while it is difficult to attain definitive numbers, an estimated one-third, rather than the normal one-half, of sophomores will receive singles. There are also some groups that have yet to be placed in the General Room Selection (GRS) process.
“I believe that there were about 733 groups that registered (either as a group of multiple people or as a group of 1) for the GRS process” Duffy wrote. “The last group to select was group number 723, so about 10 groups at the tail end of the process still need to be placed. However, that figure (10) does not include the students who did not register for housing selection at all or who were ineligible to participate and have subsequently updates/changed plans to be here for the Fall, so there may be slightly more.”
Some students were under the assumption they were in a group but ended up not being able to select with their group. In some cases, these students were kicked out of their groups if they were not eligible for housing, and in others, students were under the assumption that they were in a group when in actuality, their invitation was pending.
“I think this situation has led to some frustration among students and a perception that they were removed from their group unjustly by ResLife, when in actuality they just didn’t complete all of the steps of the process,” Duffy wrote. “There may be more specific scenarios that I could address, but that was the most common one I saw when looking into concerns students brought up about being ‘kicked’ from their group.”
One of the students that had difficulties with the selection process was Julian DeMann ’22. DeMann had bookmarked all of the rooms of one side of one floor in Hewitt with his friends, but got separated from his group after realizing that the configuration was set in a way that was no longer possible with his rank. DeMann and his group did not realize this discrepancy because he submitted his bookmarks much earlier in the day. In essence, DeMann was unaware that he would be separated from his friends because of his rank, and as a result, DeMann is unable to live with his friends next year.
“[Wesleyan] promotes this community and inclusion, so they don’t want anyone living off campus,” DeMann said. “I think that responds to this really poorly because what’s happening now is juniors are taking sophomores’ spots. Sophomores are getting pushed into doubles. I don’t know how this is going to play out for freshmen. It seems like the University hasn’t really given this the proper attention that they need.”
In addition to DeMann, other students have expressed their dissatisfaction with the selection process this year. Former Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) Chair of the Student Life Committee Rowan Beaudoin-Friede ’22 has been working closely with other students who have voiced their concerns.
“There definitely are some common threads here,” Beaudoin-Friede said. “I mean, one of them is a frustration with the accessibility of ResLife during the time when housing selection is happening. So it’s just like having a hard time getting in touch with people. And I think that the reason why ResLife is so difficult to get in touch with is because obviously there’s the pandemic happening and all of the people in the office were, as far as I’m aware, operating from home.”
While the online format is new to the selection process, Duffy maintains that this year, the results are different, but not entirely abnormal.
“Every year in our process there are groups that need to split or reconfigure due to how the numbers work out in terms of how many spaces are available in given capacity sizes,” Duffy wrote. “This year there is the added complication of having significantly more students participating in the process as many study abroad programs have cancelled or students have deferred their plans to study abroad in light of the COVID-19 outbreak or other factors that weighed into their decision-making.”
“Everything else about the process was designed to mirror the process as it has run in the past, the most significant differences were the use of unlimited bookmarks and ResLife serving as a proxy for all students,” Duffy added. “While ResLife serving as a proxy may sound like a large difference, it is actually much the same as previous years once the use of unlimited bookmarks is introduced.”
Even though splitting up groups is not uncommon, many students believe that more can and should be done by the University. In a public Facebook post, DeMann proposed two solutions: a full Residence Comprehensive Fee (RCF) surcharge refunding which includes meals and living accommodations of grade-appropriate housing, and an option for juniors to move to off-campus housing, which would free up more space for sophomore and first-year students in residence halls.
“I was thinking that the University could either lease rooms for us or work it out with some land owners somewhere,” DeMann said. “It’ll be better to get kids out of dorms and into their own sort of private room, if the University doesn’t want to do that cause that’s too expensive for them, they could refund us the housing portion of the RCF which I think they consider to be around 40 percent.”
Twelve students, two of whom are rising sophomores, reached out to DeMann and supported his suggestions of options that the University should pursue. While the University has not yet addressed DeMann’s ideas, Beaudoin-Friede is currently working directly with Director of ResLife Fran Koerting and Duffy to discuss if the process itself needs to be changed or if necessary guidance should be added at different points within it for future selection processes.
Beaudoin-Frieda is also working with ResLife to address dissatisfied students on a case-by-case basis and encourages students to reach out to him if they need assistance with any of their housing concerns.
“What we’re going to do is we’re going to review each case, talk about them, think about what the students could have done differently, what ResLife could’ve done differently, and through that process, try to discover what needs to be improved on, either by changing it or by making it more clear,” Beaudoin-Friede said.
Nonetheless, while more problems have arisen in the housing-selection process this year, Beaudoin-Friede says that these discussions are crucial to improving the situation moving forward.
“This year the housing selection process was really complicated by the pandemic and by the implementation of a new online system that’s in its first year,” Beaudoin-Friede said. “And so there’s some natural complications that come with that and I think that it’s really disappointing and upsetting to see that students were negatively impacted by that. I think that these conversations are really going to help improve the process.”
Oliver Cope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.