Room Draw leaves some first-year students homeless

Housing and Dining Services guarantees housing to any student who participates in the Room Draw process each spring. However, as some have learned, Housing does not guarantee students that they will be housed in a timely fashion, on campus, or even in a room. In past years, first-years have wound up in Morewood Gardens lounges, standard triples that were meant to be doubles, the far-off London Terrace Apartments, and even the Wyndham Hotel in Oakland.

With the uncertainty of Cathedral Mansions’ 147 spots and the transition to more exclusively first-year buildings, this year’s Room Draw, which took place from March 24 to 27, promised to be as bleak as ever. Upperclassmen could no longer choose Mudge, Boss, or Scobell, all of which became first-year only, although students already living there could retain for this year only.

Cathedral Mansions made a conspicuous disappearance from the list of housing options.

However, the burden eventually fell on the current first-years, who were the last to participate in Room Draw.

Jason Cho, a first-year whose draw number was 744, said, “I got [to Room Draw] 15 minutes before my time. The room was pretty full. They said they only had a few rooms left, so I sort of concluded that I wasn’t getting a room because of all the people in front of me.

“They did at one point say there are no more rooms. They made that very clear.”

As a result, many current first-years like Cho have “open assignments,” the term Housing is using for students who do not have rooms yet. Housing aims to resolve the open assignments by June 1.

Cho, who currently lives in the all first-year Hamerschlag House, received an e-mail of reassurance from Thomas Witholt, the building’s housefellow, which was sent to other residents as well.

“Please keep in mind that, if you haven’t already, you will get an assignment (unless you remove yourself from the list). That’s a guarantee from Housing,” Witholt wrote in the e-mail. “Most likely everyone on the list will have one by June 1, although that’s not a guarantee.”

Students wanting to cancel and reclaim their $300 reservation fee must do so by April 25, after which they lose the fee. After May 16 at 5 p.m., students cannot cancel their housing and will be held responsible for paying the fee and for housing.

“We are processing cancellations daily. We are making assignments daily. We are communicating with the students who have received an open assignment regularly,” said Kimberly Abel, director of Housing and Dining Services.

For students with open assignments, Housing has changed the timetable for the cancellation policy.

“We provided the students who received open assignments information about the assignment process along with information about the cancellation policy and at what point that would impact them,” Abel said. “There is no financial obligation or contractual agreement with the student until they have received their specific assignment and have confirmed their acceptance.”

The fate of Cathedral Mansions and its 147 spots is uncertain. The apartment building was unavailable for selection during the Room Draw process. Even so, Abel expects the housing capacity to stay the same, although there’s a shortage at the moment.

“We anticipate a housing capacity for the fall ’08 that is equivalent or greater than what our capacity was in fall ’07,” she said. “Historically, we have accommodated all student demand and are committed to doing so in the future.

“We are currently exploring expanding our presence in Fairfax [Apartments] and Webster [Hall], as well as our continued presence in Cathedral Mansions. We are exploring all of our options in the area adjacent to campus.”

Abel provided no further explanation on Cathedral Mansions or how extra rooms would be found.

She did say, however, that no upperclassmen would be placed in temporary housing, such as the makeshift Morewood lounge-rooms.

Cho sympathizes with Housing and believes he will eventually get a room, though he may not get the room or roommate he wanted.

“Obviously, I dislike not being able to know that I have a room.... At the time, they seemed very positive and professional. I’m more concerned with getting placed with someone who I don’t get along with. As they keep sending me cancellation reminders, it sort of feels like they are hoping or relying on me to cancel my housing agreement.”

Part of the reason for the open assignments is the fact that the university is trying to build dormitory communities and make housing more certain for incoming first-years.

“The reason behind this year’s process is to ensure that as many first-years as possible are able to have a similarly community-oriented experience living with a large number of other first-years,” Witholt wrote.

By fall 2009, Mudge, Boss, and Scobell houses will join Donner Hall, Hamerschlag House, Morewood Gardens E Tower, and New House as exclusively first-year buildings; retention will not be an option. By tallying the number of spaces in those buildings (available on, there will be approximately 1367 spaces for first-years, not including the first floors of Henderson, McGill, and Welch houses, also earmarked for incoming first-years.

On the other hand, no first-years will be given room assignments in Resnik, West Wing, Morewood A–D Towers, Roselawn Houses, and Woodlawn and Margaret Morrison apartments.
In those buildings, upperclassmen will gain about 140 spots, which will not quite offset the approximately 60 spots they lost from Mudge, Boss, and Scobell.