Approximately 200 rising juniors and seniors discovered last week that they had not received a time slot for campus housing selection. These students are left with a handful of options: sign up for a wait list and hope a space opens up, search for a place to live off campus or plan to make the commute from home.
But not all of these students are satisfied with the choices they have been given or with the randomized process that dictates who gets a spot and who does not.
Students like Courtney Mulligan, a waitlisted sophomore music major who lives on Long Island, have fewer options than most. She said the drive from home can take up to four hours, so “commuting is out of the question.” She plans to study abroad next spring, which will complicate any off-campus housing contract.
Besides, said Melissa Tomlin, sophomore early education/MST major, students seeking to live off campus, including her former roommate, signed housing contracts as early as November, leaving waitlisted students at a disadvantage.
Unlike the initial lottery, the order of the wait list is made with consideration to students who live farther away, according to an e-mail from interim housing director Ryan Farnkopf.
“So I guess I’m just going to really hope that I’m high up on the list,” Mulligan said. “It’s kind of up in the air right now.”
She and other waitlisted students said they are concerned that they may not have as much time as they would like to make a decision for next year. Mulligan said an employee in Residential Education and Housing told her that she may not find out if she gets a spot until after the end of the semester.
Farnkopf said the wait list should be organized by April, and the College is typically able to provide most students on the wait list a space over the summer — though in the past, students have entered housing in the second or third weeks of the fall semester.
“If I’m not going to get housing, I need to make other plans … I need more advance than finding out in the summer,” Mulligan said.
Iris Tian, junior health and exercise science major, said that since she didn’t receive a time slot, she is now going through the “stressful” process of looking for housing off campus. She knows other students who are doing the same.
“They’re all struggling to find housing around here,” she said.
One of her complaints relates to ResEd and Housing’s extension of the housing application deadline — the original window, Monday, Feb. 7 to Friday, Feb. 11, was expanded through Sunday, Feb. 13, without a clear explanation, according to Tian.
“We did not offer a justification to the entire residential population,” Farnkopf said, “but those students who needed to resubmit an application or deposit payment because of a transaction error or denied credit card were notified in advance and informed of the necessary steps separately.”
Farnkopf said the extension was necessary to deal with pending applications from rising sophomores.
“Since rising sophomores are guaranteed housing, and this is their first time going through the process, we are typically a bit more lenient with their applications,” he said. “Unfortunately, the portal does not allow us to restrict rising juniors and seniors while permitting rising sophomores.”
The dates by which students applied, as long as they met the extended deadline, did not influence the lottery results, according to Farnkopf. He said the weekend deadline extension happened last year, as well, but that most students probably do not remember this because there was no housing cutoff.
Tian, Mulligan and Tomlin are among those who met the original deadline and did not receive time slots.
Tian attributes this to a flaw in the process: “I just don’t think it’s fair that the people who really wanted housing and actually got the money in time had, I guess, the same chance of getting housing as the other people who missed the deadline,” she said.
She is not the only one who has expressed this sentiment. On Feb. 22 — the day that rising juniors and seniors learned whether or not they had time slots — Tian and a few other students left comments on the TCNJ Housing Facebook page complaining that students who met the Feb. 11 deadline deserved to be given preference.
At first, the TCNJ Housing administrator responded, “Thanks for the feedback, everyone. We will certainly take this into consideration for next year.”
As of Feb. 23, however, the comments had been removed.
Farnkopf said he was not aware of the Facebook thread, but he noted that deletions had been made in the past.
“Our Facebook page is a means of answering questions and disseminating information,” he said. “We have deleted comments and threads in the past if people posted inaccurate information, hostile, derogatory or inappropriate remarks or were using the forum to vent their frustrations.”
Tian was skeptical. “I feel like they’re trying to hide the fact that they did something wrong and didn’t tell the students why they extended the deadline in the first place,” she said.
Farnkopf defended ResEd and Housing’s non-preferential policy.
“If we began taking application date into consideration, the lottery cutoff would be first-come, first-serve rather than a randomized process,” he said.
Yet to Mulligan and Tomlin, who will live in Norsworthy Hall until the end of the semester, a randomized process may not be the best process.
Mulligan said she thinks the distance of a student’s home from campus should be taken into account from the beginning. Tomlin suggested a merit-based system of preference that takes into account, for example, whether or not students have been docked.
Both agreed that the quality of students’ accommodations one year should affect their housing status the next.
“There are some people that go through it getting the best dorm every year and getting housing, going from living in Eickhoff or New Res, to next year, getting apartments,” Mulligan said. “And then there are people like us, who go from Norsworthy to nothing.”
Matt Huston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.