A perfect storm of residence hall closings, learning community obligations and room shortages have led officials in University Housing to seriously consider changing the residence hall sign-up process for next year.
Under the proposed policy, students would no longer have the option to apply for the same room or a room in the same residence hall in which they currently reside. Instead, all students would be placed in a campus-wide lottery.
Housing spokesman Peter Logan said the proposed change is the result of an anticipated shortage of 2,200 rooms that will not be available to returning students interested in living in the same room or residence hall.
Logan said the combination of residence halls that will either be closed for construction, open to only first- or second-year students or reserved for learning communities next year makes it impossible to figure out a fair sign-up process in which students can choose the rooms they want.
“For that reason, we thought it’s probably going to be more equitable for most resident students to simply offer from the start the campus-wide sign-up step and forgo the same hall, same room steps that proceeded it,” he said.
Part of the complication results from the fact that starting next fall, Couzens Residence Hall will be closed for renovation. As a result, approximately 550 fewer rooms will be available.
About 120 students in the Michigan Community Scholars Program and 60 students in the Honors Program — who currently reside in Couzens — will be relocated to other residence halls. Honors students will move to South Quad, but it is not yet confirmed where MCSP students will be housed.
Though North Quad will be opening next fall, Logan said it won’t solve the room deficiency. The new hall will have approximately 450 rooms, but the University will still lack 100 rooms after losing the 550 spaces in Couzens.
While Logan could not confirm where students from MCSP will be placed, he said they will not be put in North Quad.
Additionally, all of Mary Markley Residence Hall and three houses in Baits II will be reserved for first-year students as part of the First-Year Experience Program. This makes approximately 1,495 spaces unavailable for upperclassmen. In the past, upperclassmen could apply to live in Markley or any house in Baits, but with the freshmen programs, they can no longer do that.
While Stockwell Residence Hall is set aside for returning students, the residence hall concentrates on its Sophomore Year Experience Program. Logan said this poses a problem for sophomores currently residing in Stockwell who may want to live there again next year. He said Housing may allow some current residents to return to Stockwell next year, but it has not yet been decided how it will determine which students will be eligible to return.
Housing also plans to reserve rooms for the University’s seven residential Michigan Learning Communities. Each learning community decides which students can remain in the program. Unlike other residents, students returning to a learning community will have the opportunity to stay in their current hallway, but whether they will have the choice to stay in their same room is not yet known.
After adding up the space allocations from all residence halls, Logan said Housing could not come up with a plan that would permit students to keep their same room or hall if they so wished, while also giving other students a choice of where they want to live.
“One of the biggest concerns we’ve had is that if we try to shuffle around the number of spaces to accommodate the students who had been living in Baits or Markley or Couzens, and give them an upper hand in the selection process in some other hall, then it really complicates the process for the students in those other halls wanting to reapply,” he said.
With these compounding problems before them, the University has been discussing changes for the sign-up policy during the last several months. Part of that process has been an analysis of how the process has played out in the past.
According to Logan, the number of students applying for the same room and same hall has continuously declined over the last four years. Comparing the process in 2006 to that in 2009, 115 fewer students applied for the same room, while 593 fewer students applied for the same hall and learning community.
On the other hand, the number of students participating in the campus-wide lottery has increased 526 students — from 1,202 in 2006 to 1,728 in 2009.
Logan said the increasing participation in the lottery has indicated that more students are interested in switching halls and that eliminating the same room-same hall option would solve some of the problems.
The lottery will be determined based on the number of consecutive years a student has lived in campus housing — with students with more years receiving a better lottery bracket. Logan said he believes students who have lived in the residence halls for a longer period of time won’t experience a difference in their housing placements.
“We feel that the students who have been living with us for a couple years, and who have that advantage of lower lottery brackets because of their seniority probably won’t notice much in the way of outcomes,” he said.
LSA junior Caitlin Sadler, president of the Residence Halls Association, said she thinks the campus-wide lottery will keep the sign-up system “relatively fair” and that the policy will be well received in the future.
“I think overall, looking at this in three or four years, it’s going to be really well-accepted, and it’s going to be part of the overall policy,” Sadler said. “I think the shift might be a little bit difficult, but it is a better system I feel in the long run, so it’s worth making that shift.”
Engineering freshman Mina Georges is a member of MCSP in Couzens. He said he wants to return to MCSP next year — even if it’s in another location — because he enjoys learning about the urban policy and environmental issues the program teaches.
“If the program is going to continue, and we’re just going to live in a different place, it won’t matter for me that much,” Georges said.
But he said he does not agree with Housing’s proposal that would prevent students from returning to the same hall.
“I think they should just leave it (the way it is),” he said. “If someone feels comfortable at some place, why do you have to make them change?”
LSA sophomore Tatiana Hortig also expressed concern about the new plan. Hortig is living in Alice Lloyd Residence Hall for a second year with a few friends she met in Alice Lloyd last year. She said it would have been terrible if they got split up and couldn’t live together in the same hall.
“I can’t imagine if this year they put me in some random dorm because I would have lost contact with them,” she said.
According to Logan, a final decision about the new process will be made within the next few weeks. Information regarding housing applications will be available in November.