New tiered system to increase transparency

1 month ago
Logan Harless
Mercury Staff

Motivated by student feedback regarding widespread issues with the old online application, Residential Life has overhauled its process to account for the high demand in leasing out its limited housing space.

“We needed to make a bigger change than just small tweaks here and there,” said Ryan White, assistant vice president of Residential Life.

The most important and visible of these changes revolved around the online “intent to sign-up” process.

“Last year we opened sign-up at 10 a.m. At 10:03 a.m., we were full. … People had class, people had work. … When it fills up that fast its going to be disadvantageous to students. …We knew that first-come, first-served was not student friendly,” White said.

Not only did registration fill up within three minutes, the volume of students applying put stress on the servers and caused them to fail. Neuroscience junior Udit Bhatt recounted his experience during the fall 2015 application period when he was leaving the dorms and applying for an apartment in University Village.

“When we first did it, it actually didn’t work at all and that was a big fiasco. Because it was at 10 a.m., something like that, in the middle of a school day, I was in (general chemistry) and everyone was refreshing their page to try and open the housing app and it never opened,” Bhatt said.

For this semester’s round of applications, Res Life is implementing a priority-based system that will improve transparency and present a more student friendly interface.

The portion of the process called the “intent to signup” — which caused the most problems in the past — occurred without incident on Feb. 6. Students have now formed their roommate groups and are waiting until Feb. 27 when the highest priority housing signups begin.

The new method uses a tiered system. Students are assigned a priority number based on a variety of factors. The number determines the order in which students can apply for housing. After lease renewals are addressed, the signup priority is given to McDermott, Terry and National Merit scholars followed by, rising sophomores, rising juniors, rising seniors and finally graduate students. Commuters who lived off campus can only apply for spots on the waitlist.

If students decide to apply as a group of roommates and not individually, their priority numbers are averaged.

In creating its new system, Res Life had a simple goal.

“What we want to do is have a process that is just as fair as it can be,” White said.

He elaborated further, listing Res Life’s priorities in decision-making. First, getting housing for scholarship students who are required to live on campus, next ensuring students know who their roommates will be, then making sure students know their assignment and lastly ensuring the process is as transparent as possible.

Bhatt said he can see a tangible improvement in the process, though he pointed out some areas that can still be refined.

“Overall it’s a better system, and I think it will work but it’s not perfect,” Bhatt said. “It’s good that they have some priority system in … (but) it’s probably unfair to students. Say there is a current sophomore who was trying to do it last year but got put on a waiting list, or a senior for that matter, and then they try again now and don’t get it now because of this new priority.”

White said Res Life recognizes that this is the first time it will be running its new system and will be looking for ways to fine-tune the process.

“If there is a better way to do this, I’m all ears. …When we’re all through this process we’ll go assess it and go talk to students,” he said.