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Housing lottery moves into second phase

First-ever online housing lottery system has been tested to prevent site from crashing

This spring’s housing lottery — the first to take place on an online platform rather than in person in Sayles Hall — is currently progressing through the second of three phases.

The new online structure has been split into three phases: After indicating interest in participating in the housing lottery, students are currently choosing the size of the group with which to enter, which can range from one to 10 students, said Richard Hilton, associate director of residential life. Finally, the housing lottery itself begins April 7 and lasts until April 10.

With the online lottery process, students are given lottery numbers, as in the former lottery structure, and a coinciding time slot, Hilton said. The time slot designates when a student or group should log in to select rooms, with three minutes before the next student or group can enter the system.

“If you’re still in the system after three minutes and the second group comes into the system, everything’s in play for them also,” said Richard Bova, senior associate dean of residential life and dining services. “It will work the same as the in-person format, but now we’re not forcing you out.”

Students will be able to select rooms up until the lottery closes on that specific day.

Office of Residential Life staff members will be “working on phone bank and live monitoring, so if anybody has any problem at all, there will be plenty of staff to reach out to,” Bova said. There will also be designated areas where students can get support from Meiklejohn peer advisers and Residential Council members, he added. “We’re building lots of support around the student experience.”

The online lottery system has undergone load testing, in which Computing and Information Services tested how many students could enter the system without affecting the platform’s speed or capability, Hilton said. ResLife chose a system owned and managed by the University over a third-party platform because it would be less susceptible to crashing, he said.

“The lottery was the most stressful aspect of many students’ lives in the spring semester,” Bova said. “The trauma, the angst, the level of concern … and all the rules. We wanted to have a platform that allowed students to work with the system in real time, that didn’t require them to sit in Sayles for three and a half hours.”

Students currently studying abroad will participate in the same online lottery process as those on campus, Hilton said. In the past, abroad students needed an on-campus student representative at the lottery.

“I feel like I’m on a more even playing field,” wrote Justina Lee ’15, who is studying abroad, in an email to The Herald. “Whether I’m here in Hong Kong or back in the United States, I’ll be able to access the lottery in the same way as everyone else.”

But other students are still concerned about the process. “The digitization of the lottery and step-by-step email administration helps me to remember that I need to take care of accommodation for next year, but I also can’t seem to shake the feeling that I might be screwed over for senior year housing,” wrote Clare Kim ’15, currently studying abroad in Dublin,  in an email to the Herald. “I am trying to appreciate the online process, but it adds another dimension of confusion to the situation since it’s a new system and I’m not there to get clarification from the more savvy Brunonians.”

In order to incorporate student perspective in the process, meetings were held between ResLife and ResCouncil members last year to plan for the new system, Hilton said. Before granting their approval, ResCouncil members required the new lottery to retain the same fundamental functions as the traditional lottery, including “the way students are weighted, the way students choose and the way students group up,” Hilton said.

“It was kind of a madhouse before when we had it at Sayles, with tensions and emotions running. It was a lot more pressure,” said Walker Mills ’15, a member of ResCouncil and opinions columnist for The Herald. “I think overall (the online lottery) experience will be a lot easier.”


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