In the 2020-21 school year, students living in university housing will experience a new room selection process. These changes are the product of student feedback and of University Housing’s new executive director, Donna McGalliard, who was hired in March 2019.
Students will go through an expanded room selection process this year, consisting of three phases. The first phase is like past years, where students select their housing options online during their allotted time.
On its own, phase one created a massive waitlist of students who could not secure housing. The waitlist would be combed through as spaces became available, with no guarantees for anyone. By adding a second and third phase, University Housing will give consideration to waitlisted students once vacancies have opened up.
“A student might find out after the first round of room selection in February that they all of a sudden have an opportunity to go abroad, or that they have been accepted to a co-op,” McGalliard said.
Traditionally, McGalliard said, these changes shake out before May, which is when the second phase of room selection will take place. New vacancies will move students off the waitlist in larger numbers than before. The third phase of this new process will accommodate any last-minute changes sometime in July.
“Getting into University Housing off the waitlist made my life so much easier this semester,” said Claire Register, a second-year studying accounting. “Staying in a dorm and being able to easily get out of my contract for Study Abroad took away some stress and allowed me to focus on other aspects of Study Abroad instead of how I was going to find a subleaser.”
In the new process, it will come down to the number of roommates a student has. McGalliard said the new policy requires the size of the rooming group to match the size of the space the students want. To live in a double in Bragaw, a student must have one other student in their rooming group. To live in a four-person apartment at Wolf Village, a student must have four students in their rooming group.
This resolves a common frustration for students who would go to sign up in groups, but become unable to live with their groups because one bed had already been selected by a student, leaving an odd number available.
“Hopefully having the same number in your roommate group that matches the space will allow more people to live with who they want to live with and where,” McGalliard said. “We are really excited about that.”
McGalliard said she hopes implementing rooming groups will also resolve random vacancies, because students will no longer be assigned in odd numbers.
However, not all students feel like their best interests are a top priority in this new process, and first-year students are not the only ones who will be affected by these changes.
Emma Hudspeth, a second-year studying business administration, lives in Wolf Village and planned to live there again next year. She did not know about the change in requirements for roommate groups and assumed she could apply with one roommate and be assigned random roommates like she had last year. Because she did not know about these changes, Hudspeth was unable to sign during her allotted time and will have to find off-campus housing for next year.
“I wish that University Housing had communicated these changes better to students who are currently living on campus,” Hudspeth said. “I really liked living in Wolf Village because of the convenience to campus.”
Hudspeth offered a suggestion for University Housing, saying they could fine-tune their new system by designating specific spaces for students with incomplete roommate groups.
“I wish that University Housing would designate specific buildings for students who have incomplete roommate groups so that students still have the option to live at Wolf Village,” Hudspeth said. “Students come into housing with a variety of situations, and this would accommodate everyone.”
Students will also not be able to request the residence hall they live in next year. This decision was based on the trend that most students applied into the same residence halls, and it was impossible to accommodate everyone.
“When first-year applications went live, we had a very, very large number of students all select Bragaw as their first choices,” McGalliard said. “What we don’t want to do is have to automatically say, ‘Hi, all 700 of you who have all selected Bragaw … you can’t live there.’ So we are trying to make a more practical and realistic choice available for them. What we’ve heard is that the most important thing to most students is who they live with, not necessarily where they live.”
Gracen Sessoms, a first-year studying business, said most students she knows would prefer to live with someone they are comfortable with, even if they may not be able to pick which residence hall they live in.
“At the end of the day, most students I know would prefer to know that they can live with someone they know and someone that they are comfortable with,” Sessoms said. “It depends on your major and where your classes are, but every building on campus is convenient to some locations and less convenient to others.”
McGalliard said University Housing is constantly evaluating the room selection process in order to balance the 10,000 beds on campus with student needs, and the department looks to students during these evaluations.
“We want to do things thoughtfully and with student voice participating as necessary,” McGalliard said.