Unclear Room Draw Policy Reveals Controversy Between Students and Residence Life

Byline: Xiaomeng Li

Posted: June 20, 2011

Jing Luan got an email from her class officer at the beginning of April saying that she would be considered a “junior” in the room draw. She went to the Science Center auditorium on Sun. April 18 with her number after super seniors and seniors had finished their picks. However, she found that many sophomores were ahead of her. In the end, there were not many choices left. Thus, Luan and her roommate chose a room in Disert Hall, which is considered a “sophomore dorm.”

Controversy Over Room Draw

This year’s room draw policy caused controversy between residential students and the Residence Life office. Among 236 residential students, 42 participated in an anonymous online survey and believed that this year’s room draw policy has changed. Last year, the order of room draw included the course credits that students had in that unfinished semester. But this year’s room draw was based on the credits students had finished. However, according to Sherri Ihle Sadowski, Director of Residence Life, the room draw policy is the same as last year.

Sadowski said that the room draw was based on the Bluebook policy. But she also said the Residence Life office did not entirely follow it because “there is a grey area in the Bluebook.” In fact, the Bluebook only addresses that, “Class Standing will be determined by the documented date of graduation.” Sadowski said, “The Bluebook assumes that students come to Wilson with no credit and then go through the four-year procession. But this doesn’t happen to many students. There are transfer students and students who have taken summer classes and carry those credits.”

Since the Bluebook did not provide a comprehensive instruction, how to decide the room draw policy became a question. Sadowski explained that she consulted with the Student Development Department, a number of seniors from last year, and Residential Advisors (RAs) about the previous room draw policy and brought it up to the Residence Council. The Residence Council, according to the Bluebook, is “composed of the Head Resident Advisor, one additional Resident Advisor, the Rules and Regulations Chair, and one member of the Student Development staff, and senators from each residence hall.” The Residence Council finally decided that whoever was closest to graduating would be the first to pick.

However, the anonymous survey online shows that the Residence Council’s decision met a disagreement from some residential students. Half of the population in the survey believes that the current room draw policy is unfair for students with different class standings.

For many students who participated in last year’s room draw, counting or not counting current credits makes a big difference. Jess Domanico ’11 said, “In my case, I would be considered a super-senior if the classes I took this semester were counted, and I would therefore have a higher draw. But that was not the case, and my current credits were not included… and my draw was significantly lower.” The same thing occurred to Luan who had 24.75 credits at the end of last semester. According to last year’s rule, because Luan registered five credits for next semester, she would be a senior. However, this year she fell into junior standing and ended up in a room she did not prefer. She finally decided to change to a single room in McElwain/Davison (Mac/Dav) Hall because as a rising senior who will conduct an Honor Thesis in biology, she did not want to live too far away from the Science Center.

Room Draw at Other Colleges

When asked whether the current room draw policy is the most applicable for Wilson, Sadowski stated that she is not the best person to answer this question. “Students have more understanding of their desires,” she replied. However, she did share that other institutions have different policies. “From the institutions I have worked before: they had ‘room squatting,’ which means you can keep the room you currently have. People could also ‘group up’ so about 15 students can form a group and buy out rooms together. But the Residence Council at Wilson thought these policies didn’t fit in Wilson because surely South and Riddle will be filled with groups first.”

Many kinds of room draw methods exist in colleges and universities around the U.S. Catham College in Pittsburgh, Pa., a private women’s college like Wilson, requires students to log in to a Web site, pick a lottery number and choose their rooms accordingly. Unlike Wilson, Catham College does not divide students into different groups by class standings or credits. At Smith College in Boston, Mass., students enter a lottery based on their seniority, i.e. rising seniors pick first. In the online survey, one student also said, “For many colleges that I visited, top draw was based on who ranked first in the class, and I think this is a good reward.”

Besides the controversy between seniority and credits, another concern raised by some students is the current room draw policy’s effect on Wilson’s tradition. Elizabeth Musgreave ’11 said that, “The buildings are now messed up. South and Riddle are not junior and senior dorms anymore because this year so many sophomores and freshmen got into these dorms. Maybe they should be called ‘16-credit dorm’ or ‘26-credit dorm’ now, but that’s not going to work.” Sadowski explained that, according to the Bluebook, “All residence halls will be open to all students. But usually students have the assumption that Mac/Dav is for freshmen, Disert is for sophomores, South is for juniors and Riddle for seniors.”

The Future of Room Draw at Wilson

Different from the result on the online survey, Sadowski said she has not received many complaints. “This year [room selection] actually went smoother. We finished 15 minutes earlier than expected. Last year it went over one hour. And I don’t have many people on the waiting list. It seems people are happier. Maybe they want to try it out and see how things go.” Beth Bush, Secretary of the Class of 2011, had a similar feeling as Sadowski, saying, “There weren’t many people coming to me afterwards and complain about the room draw policy.” However, Bush said there were some people who were upset after the room selection night. “Maybe they didn’t understand the new rule until that night,” she said.

Nevertheless, Sadowski said that the policy will change next year and Residence Life will clarify the ambiguity in the Bluebook. She personally thinks the current policy is not the best one for Wilson and she “would prefer go by number of years because it is a reward for people who stay in Wilson.” The Residence Council has decided that starting next year, students’ current credits will be counted in the room draw.

However, this year’s room draw reveals the lack of communication between the Residence Life office and residential students. As a consequence, a significant number of students felt unfairly treated. Undeniably, students have a responsibility to read the Bluebook and understand the room draw policy. In the survey, one student said, “Students [should] actually read and understand how the process works before room draw time comes.” However, on the other hand, the Residence Life office and Residence Council have the responsibility to inform students of any change beforehand and be more transparent about their decisions. As for now, only people on the Residence Council have the power to decide room draw policy. Although students can run for hall senators in order to represent students’ voices, there are also voices that are left out. “[We need] more information beforehand. The room draw needs to be organized on the organizers standpoint,” wrote another student.

Last Updated: September 20, 2011

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