Get it while it lasts: the Macalester housing market


Spring semester is a stressful time given the scramble to find summer internships, final exams and the search for housing. For first-years, this can be particularly difficult. Having never gone through the housing process, it could cause them a good deal of anxiety

Sierra Pancoast ’17, current first-year and future RA, agreed. “For me, Res Life manually filled out what I’m in, so I didn’t have to do anything,” she said. “But I could feel people who had to choose housing getting stressed. People were calling ITS to find out where the best wifi was in order to be the fastest to log on.”

The stress of finding roommates and getting the ideal room was made worse with rumors of last year’s housing problems. Last spring, students had numbers assigned to them that dictated the order in which they could choose housing. However, a glitch in the system, whose cause still remains unexplained, caused the numbers to become reshuffled. Students were assigned new numbers, creating confusion and discontent.

Adding to that, the number system had various other drawbacks. Keith Edwards, Director of Campus Life, explained, “When we give out numbers, people feel like their fate and life has been decided by Res Life.”

Last year, many students who were dissatisfied with their numbers began to take other steps to ensure that they had a good shot at getting the space of their choice.

“The numbers caused a lot of strategizing based on times,” Edwards added. “A lot of students picked who they’re living with based on what number people had, and that doesn’t lend itself to good things when they’re actually living there.”

Due to the many problems that the number-assignment system created, this year Residential Life opted for a time-based system. For Upperclassmen Room Draw and Group Housing Room Draw, students were able to log in and choose housing at any time from 7:30 AM until 4:30 PM. Res Life chose to avoid staggering the arrival of students, as there was not any one room that people would scramble to choose. Instead, students made groups ranging from three to six people and chose spaces based on what was available when they logged on.

Edwards believed the system worked very well.

“For rising juniors and seniors, some of them are really eager to get this particular spot and they did that right at 7:30 and others just kind of trickled in throughout the day,” he said. No upperclassmen were denied housing on-campus.

But for rising sophomores, group housing was a bit more difficult. “We had the same process for sophomores from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., but really, it was over by 7:35 a.m.” Edwards admitted.

Many students complained about the speed with which triples and quad spaces were filled. But for some, the system posed no problem.

“I didn’t find it hard to get housing,” Kareem Ismail ’17 said. “The six-person suite was just there and we chose it. No one really plans on a six-person, so we were prepared and didn’t have to add people last minute.”

Room draw for singles and doubles used a different system. Students could choose housing between 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Two students were assigned to each minute in this block of time, which marked their specific times to log on. This way, when it was time for a student to pick a space, they could log on, see what was available and make their decision.

“That seemed to work really well,” Edwards said. “We saw the de-emphasizing of what times people had. Hopefully people were making the decision of who they wanted to live with, then finding their time.”