More 5Cs shift to online room draw systems

A female college student sits in her dorm room, working at her desk.
Pomona College and Pitzer College are planning on transitioning to an online room draw system next semester. (Maddie Rubin-Charlesworth • The Student Life)

Pomona College and Pitzer College will shift to an online room draw system next semester, officials said, while Claremont McKenna College introduced an online system for its mid-year room draw this week.

Pomona Dean of Students Avis Hinkson announced the school’s change in a livestreamed Q&A with parents Nov. 7, citing the stress and complications of going through the housing lottery process in person.

“We’ve moved from it being extremely stressful about walking into a room and going through a set of postcards to see what’s available, to trying to take that online,” she said.

Hinkson did not respond to further requests for comment.

Pitzer’s residence life office told students in an email after room draw last spring that they were in the process of transitioning to an online room selection portal.

Scripps College already uses an online system — Residence, a portal offered by the technology company Symplicity — according to its residential life website.

CMC students returning to campus in the spring drew rooms Tuesday using Residence, according to a Nov. 20 email from the residential life office.

CMC Dean of Students Dianna Graves CM ’98 said via email that she anticipates the rest of the student body will draw online next semester, pending feedback from those who drew this week.

Pitzer students already have access to their new Residence portal, while Hinkson said in the Q&A that Pomona’s will be in place by the spring.

In-person draw processes, in which students queue by class year in a randomly assigned order to secure rooms from whichever are left, are often viewed as a source of chaos and frustration.

In previous years at Pomona, students could find themselves waiting for hours past their expected draw times.

“It’s just a disaster,” Jay Rodolitz PO ’21 said. “By the time the rising seniors are finished drawing their rooms, you’re an hour behind schedule.”

Sage McBee PZ ’22 said he found Pitzer’s in-person draw hectic despite his early registration spot last semester.

“It was pretty dang crowded. I mean, as many people as could fit in there,” he said. “An online system sounds better because it’ll be much easier.”

Despite avoiding the tumult of a crowded in-person draw though, Scripps’ online process doesn’t spare students the stress of watching their preferred rooms disappear before their registration window.

“By the end of senior day, it was clear most of us [juniors] wouldn’t get [singles or suites] because there were very few left,” Rose Gelfand SC ’21 said via message, of last semester’s process. “Everyone panicked trying to figure out roommates [and] groups.”

Some students worried the intricacies of room draw wouldn’t necessarily translate well to an online format.

“Does the back button work? That’s my first question,” Rodolitz said, referencing issues with Pomona’s course registration portal. “I’m tentatively excited. I’m just concerned that any error won’t get recognized immediately because there’s not gonna be a … physical record.”

Hinkson said the new system is still undergoing fixes.

“[Other 5Cs] ran into some concerning issues with it over the summer,” she said. “The company that we’re working with is working to make sure that all the kinks are worked out before we implement it.”

Harvey Mudd College employed a preliminary digital draw last spring “to give students a sense of how their plans may work out in practice,” before the real draw took place in person, according to the 2019 ASHMC room draw regulations

“We currently use housing software for roster and key management,” Mudd spokesperson Judy Augsburger said via email. “Once we are more familiar with the software’s capabilities, we hope to look at how it might be incorporated into our room draw process. Any move to go digital would be made in collaboration with students.

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