Students choose seniority room draw policy in campus-wide vote

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Room draw will now be based on seniority in response to the results of a recent campus-wide survey conducted by Residential Education and Housing Services (REHS). Nearly 700 students participated in the survey, which was co-sponsored by the Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC).

REHS sent out its “Room Draw Distribution Survey” Oct. 1 and let students choose from four policy options: the current system of thirds, a seniority option, a school-wide lottery system and an option for students to write in their own idea. REHS is required to put their room draw policy up to a campus-wide vote every two years, according to ASOC President Chris Weeks (junior).

Out of a total of 680 student responses, 304 students chose the seniority option. Thirty-six percent of students wished to keep the current system of allocating an equal number of rooms to each class, and 16 percent of students wanted the school-wide lottery system. Nineteen students offered their own policy suggestions.

Starting with next semester’s room draw, all areas of on-campus housing will be open to rising seniors first, followed by juniors and then sophomores. Every student will still be assigned a room draw number within their year, but there will no longer be a third of each hall reserved for each class.

Despite the change in policy, classes will still choose their rooms on different nights, and there will be a separate room draw for triples and themed-living housing, according to Associate Director of Housing Services Michelle Saldana.

“I just encourage people to come to the info sessions [in the spring], that’s when we’ll have all the information for room draw specific questions,” Saldana said.

Vice President of External Affairs for ASOC Jemma Parsons (junior) was tasked with working with REHS to make sure the voting process was fair.

The system was set up so that students couldn’t vote more than once, according to Parsons.The option for students to write in their own suggestion for a room draw system was also a new addition to the survey.

“I think they open up the [fourth] option to get the students’ ideas on what would be equitable and fair, because you know people get stuck in their ways and we have to get creative at this point to think about coming up with another one,” Parsons said.

In earlier conversations between ASOC and REHS, only two main voting options were discussed—the current thirds system and the seniority system. However, REHS decided to add the option of a campus wide lottery system after hearing student feedback.

“It was just kind of ‘what if we try that?’ We had never been asked to try it out before so that’s why we put it up as a choice,” Saldana said.

But despite efforts to ensure a fair voting process, some students were disappointed by the vote’s outcome. Brandon Kim (first-year) believes the thirds system prevented the possibility of social hierarchy based on class and Katie Walt (sophomore) feels the former policy ensured an equitable room draw process.

“It doesn’t matter if you’ve been here longer, you should still have the same chance to get a room as anyone else,” Walt said. “I understand that [the thirds system] might not have worked out for some people, but it kept it fair, and that’s all you can ask for in that process.”

Saldana noted that the new seniority policy is not permanent and will be voted on again Fall 2016. Furthermore, the vote will not affect the application process for themed housing or the other non-traditional housing options the college offers.

REHS is also hoping to have applications for junior and senior off-campus registration and thematic living launched by Dec. 1.

“We’ll have all of those before the semester break, because we want to make sure that people who are going abroad have the time to complete those applications” Saldana said.