Housing process an unfair bump in road

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April 16, 2010

3:37 AM

Going through the housing process can be stressful. Finding potential roommates, predicting room availability, and trying to avoid living near fraternity houses can be taxing. The stress is magnified, however, if you are one of the unlucky few who live in the uncertainty that is having been bumped. As a student who is currently going through this process, I can personally attest to he fact that being bumped is not at all fun.

I’m not going to portray being bumped as some kind of gross miscarriage of justice that plagues the College of William and Mary, but I do think it is an unnecessary stressor added to an already stressful time of the semester. It comes in the form of an envelope hand-delivered to you door by your area director the spring semester, right as midterms are underway. The process doesn’t end for many people until after final exams and papers are completed. For some, reinstatement comes before housing registration. But for the majority of bumped students, registration has already taken place before they are reinstated, and they are more or less forced to live with a random person in an undesirable location.

I don’t have a problem with random people; talking to strangers is a great pastime. But it seems a bit insensitive to condemn a relatively large number of students each year to the luck of the draw in roommate selection. At least freshman roommates are matched with an eHarmony-esque questionnaire. A sophomore or a junior undergoing an even more rudimentary form of roommate selection seems like a disservice to all of the social capital gained during their time at college. While I agree that it is beneficial to branch out and expand one’s social circle, some people are inherently less social. Pulling these people away from their safety net could be detrimental to their enjoyment of college, at the very least, and harmful to their well-being or academic performance, at the very worst. Of course, I am merely speaking for others — naturally, I am quite the social man about town.

This situation isn’t necessarily remedied by living off campus, either, with letters being delivered after many of the nearby housing options are already spoken for. Therefore, options are usually places far from campus, and convincing a friend to move off campus with you is difficult, especially if neither of you can afford a car. The search for a suitable place can also be an exhausting experience, and can detract from more pressing matters, like academics.

It is also difficult to sift through the misconceptions about housing options with which bumped students are inundated. Many of my classmates have given me supposed advice as to what I could do about my situation, but it usually had no basis in reality. My conversations with the people at Residence Life were equally unhelpful — once I mentioned I was bumped, I was given the impression that it wasn’t their problem, and that I had to deal with it myself. While I understand that these people have to deal with a constant barrage of phone calls from angry parents, I don’t think they are exempt from being polite, especially to paying students. Angry phone calls are to be expected; their waitlist system upsets many people.

Last year, the student body voted to reverse the reinstatement process so that rising sophomores are reinstated before rising juniors. This decision apparently follows the logic that juniors are better-prepared to live off campus than sophomores, so sophomores should be given preferential treatment. While I agree that it is better for a junior to be forced to live off campus than a sophomore, the argument seems to fall apart when it is taken into account that, historically speaking, everyone is eventually reinstated and no one is forced off campus. That leaves sophomores being guaranteed housing of their choice and juniors with the leftovers. In this situation, I think the argument for seniority is valid. It seems a bit ridiculous for a junior to have to live in the units with a random roommate after having lived for a year in the Ludwell Apartments. It also seems like a double standard that seniors are exempt from being bumped entirely while juniors have the most to lose from the process — why is seniority only applicable to seniors?

Overall, it seems that the waitlist is needlessly stressful for all affected students, and it is done in such a way that juniors are penalized the most. Being bumped is just like the Internal Revenue Service — taxing.

E-mail Aaron Port at [email protected]

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