Housing debacle plagued by lack of foresight, explanation


Chocolate liegeois


Housing debacle plagued by lack of foresight, explanation**

At the beginning of this year, I was convinced that the decisions made by Assistant Dean Bill Burig at the end of last year would jeopardize the successful implementation of the new residential plan. Indeed, many of my concerns have come to pass, though they are not, as I originally thought, the result of the housing office's decisions.

Everyone must remember the housing office's interminably stuttered announcements that they would release the lottery results in another three days (times five) until finally, when the results did arrive, we learned that the process had been conducted without regard for seniority with respect to location preference. Not only did students feel frustration at being moved from their existing locations, but those that had suffered through two years of others receiving preference for the best locations would now lose their just placements in prime locations.

It did not help that we never learned why: why the process took so long, why housing annulled senior preference for one year only. Before I started investigating the process, the answer seemed simple. Dean Burig is responsible for housing decisions; he conducted the assignment process with seeming disregard for student anxiety and heightened that anxiety by repeatedly promising results which never came. It seemed that Dean Burig himself made the decision to remove senior preference in housing. I now know that none of the above is, strictly speaking, true.

Two salient facts: First, exactly two people conduct the entire lottery process, and second, the software running the process is not designed for current needs. Arguably, the greatest non-academic anxiety students feel during the year is that period between submitting their lottery forms into the housing office and the day the results come out. As that period increases in duration, satisfaction with and trust in the process demonstrably diminish. Regardless of how many hours deans and vice-presidents and students put into implementing a residential plan and establishing quads and creating campus councils, the bottom line for every student is, "Where am I going to live?" The administration has an obligation to allocate sufficient resources toward the housing assignment process so that it runs as smoothly as possible. This obligation went unmet before President Keohane's plan, and it certainly remained unmet during the spring of the plan's implementation.

The delays in assignments came from two sources: insufficient personnel to check students' preferences data before placing them in the computer and a program wholly inadequate for the task demanded of it. The annulment of senior privilege came from the same root cause. The program could not make the assignments using new features such as block housing for lottery dorms in sufficient time for the housing office to complete the assignments before the end of the semester. Quoting from the April 10, 1995 Chronicle, "Burig said, because all upperclassmen had to re-declare their housing status, resulting in more than twice the normal load of housing forms. Burig said that his office did not have sufficient time to create the new computer program to automate the entry of housing preferences." I might add that with only two people performing the actual assignments, we could also say there was insufficient manpower as well.

The only way to finish was to eliminate class seniority. Performing the assignments process is fundamentally a resource question: Are there sufficient people and sufficient computer resources to meet student needs? The Office of Student Affairs had to know the constraints the housing office would face by December when the plan was approved, yet it neither purchased new software nor hired more people. In my view, many seniors lost their chance at better housing locations because the University did not allocate Dean Burig the resources he needed to do his job.

Given the dichotomy between apparent funding priorities and stated goals of the University toward undergraduates, is it any wonder that students have directed their anger toward prominent administrators? I will unequivocally say that almost every criticism leveled against President Keohane this semester has zero basis in fact or responsibility. At the same time, is that criticism any different from the increasingly virulent ad hominem attacks made in society at large against our political representatives?

Despite the real time and energy that the University devoted toward meeting student concerns with residential change last year, many students have lost all confidence in the administration's desire or ability to meet student needs. Much of the blame for this distrust must fall on University officials. Administrators must make every effort to inform students exactly why decisions are made. The administration has not made this effort. Too often, it seems that once administrators make a decision, they feel no obligation to justify it. We are the University's constituents. The University has an obligation to explain delays, problems and successes. Failure to do so, will rebound only to our collective disadvantage. Had an aggressive effort been made last year to explain why the process worked so abysmally, students might have been no happier, but at least they would have known to blame the appropriators and not the administrators.

Alex Rogers is Trinity senior.


Share and discuss “Housing debacle plagued by lack of foresight, explanation” on social media.