Mending a Broken Room Draw

Ah, springtime! The melting of snow! The chirping of birds! The wonderful return of warmer weather and longer days! Spring break has come and passed, and now life has returned to how it’s meant to be! Stressful, chaotic, yet in many ways serene.

But what’s this?! Off in the distance! ‘Tis a storm brewing, threatening to engulf us all! It is the harbinger of broken promises, shattered friendships, and destroyed souls! Ah! We should have known this day was coming, as it does every year! This enigmatic force is known simply as “Room Draw”.

Although embellished, the scene I’ve described portrays Room Draw fairly accurately. Whenever the topic is brought up, it’s almost always accompanied by several sighs or “Ugh”s. It consistently appears as a returning source of malice, fear, hatred, and disappointment. Yet, this seems odd to me; aren’t we, as a school, supposed to acknowledge what needs changing and “do something”?

Before we dive deeper, I’d like to put my disclaimer here. In no way am I an expert in this topic. I’ve not attended meetings with Student Life, nor have I taken surveys or spoken to numerous people to gather my data. I’m simply recounting what I’ve heard, so treat this more as a personal account or opinion. I do acknowledge that my experience is not everyone’s, but I think I have some insightful things to say regardless.

Before formulating the solutions, we first must identify and understand the problems. There are two different problem areas here – conveniently one for each Hall. Since I’m a junior, let’s tackle East Hall first.

For rising seniors and juniors, Room Draw is all about the suites. The vast majority of seniors live in suites, and getting the right suite for your group is generally considered very important. For those that don’t know, suites are assigned a number of points based on their members. Seniors are worth 4 points, juniors are worth 3.

Because points determine priority in choosing a suite, problems arise when considering who will be in your suite. A friend and I were discussing who should fill the sixth slot in their suite. I suggested a rising junior. The backlash was instant. “No way! Then we’ll have less points! We can’t do that!” I was shocked. Is having less points really worth rejecting someone, possibly a strong match, instantly? To many, yes, it is. More points are favored over a better group simply because a small point disadvantage puts you in dead last when it comes to picking your suite.
This is a major issue. Olin should be encouraging people of different classes to live together, not push them apart. As a tour guide, one of the best things I love telling people that sets Olin apart is the inter-class relationships, which are stronger here than anywhere else. But when it comes to Room Draw, it seems like Olin has taken the opposite stance: seniors should live with seniors.

I fully understand the meaning of seniority. I get that seniors have been here the longest and therefore should get first say. But that doesn’t mean the system isn’t broken. People are more than just points, and the current system doesn’t reflect that.

In looking for a solution, one can stay within the established solution space by enabling groups to choose three or four people to count for their points, instead of all six, encouraging the extra spots to be occupied by juniors. And if we were to start from scratch entirely, I’m certain Oliners could design a more appropriate solution that caters fairly to all sides. Build Day project, anyone?

If you thought it was bad in East Hall, let me tell you right now: it ain’t lookin’ so hot over in West Hall either. From my outside perspective, there seems to be two major issues plaguing many first years.

First is room entitlement. This pretty common every year and for every class, and it happens in East Hall as well. This year it seems especially bad. Many students began claiming rooms or hallways over a month before Room Draw began. This always works out poorly, as multiple people inevitably claim the same room. All sophomore doubles have the same number of points, so that means their ranking is randomly determined. When that’s decided, someone is going to feel cheated no matter what. Becoming attached to a room before Room Draw begins is just asking for catastrophe.
Second is the first floor. I’ve heard many freshmen say things like: “The first floor has no culture.” “No one wants to live there!” “That place sucks!” The outcry was so strong that Student Life changed their policy this year, moving freshmen into 1N and opening up 3N to sophomores.

This makes me both frustrated and disappointed for several reasons. One, the first floor does not suck, and it does have culture. Saying no one wants to live there is an insult to people who currently live there by choice. It’s incredibly disrespectful.

Second, if the first floor does suck, then why force incoming first years to live there? This baffles me to no end. The students of this college are supposed to respect and look out for one another. But from my point of view, it feels as if there was little consideration for the next class. This goes against everything we stand for as a school.
There’s a very good reason as few first years as possible live on the first floor. If you haven’t noticed, the stairs are designed to encourage students to interact when going back to their rooms. Freshmen year is when students need this kind of support the most. Shoving new first years to the first floor severely limits the amount of interaction on the third floor, which is known to be a largely first year lounge.

Now, I can see a possible good ending that comes from this change. Perhaps with more freshmen living in 1N, the first floor lounge will be reinvigorated with new life! Maybe everything will turn out wonderfully for everyone involved. But even if the outcome is positive, I don’t feel it excuses the lack of respect this decision demonstrates towards our incoming students.

Taking a step back at Room Draw as a whole, I think it’s valuable to consider the amount of importance we as Oliners place in where we live. Living next to your best friends can be awesome, but just how important is it? Do you really need to live in the party hallway? Is walking up some steps to visit your friends really so bad?
Last year, I lived in 4W in WH. My best friends who I visited every night lived in 4W… in EH. So every night I went down the stairs and went back up the stairs in EH to see them. Guess what? It wasn’t that bad. Would I have liked to have been closer? Sure. But regardless of the distance, we were friends, and I was willing to go even if it took more than ten seconds.

This year, I live in 1E in EH. I usually hang out in 3N or in WH. Why? Because I like the people there! Distance is irrelevant! In the end, it doesn’t matter where you live! Because as long as you have friends who want to see, you are going to make the effort to see them, even if it means traversing a couple of stairs.

In the end, I want the system to improve. I don’t want Room Draw to signal despair, like in my opening scene. And I believe we need to take steps towards positive change. But how can we expect the system to improve if we can’t improve ourselves? First things first. We need to stop feeling entitled to the rooms we want and understand that living somewhere “undesirable” doesn’t spell doom. In the end, we all live here at Olin, and in my opinion, that’s pretty desirable. What matters is that you make friends worth traversing those “distances” for.

So calm down. Relax. Don’t let Room Draw whip you up into a frenzy. While we search for ways to improve the system, remember that we are Oliners; we have all promised one another our respect. And if everyone understands and starts acting upon that respect as we should, then maybe, just maybe, next year’s Room Draw won’t bring about such feelings of malice, fear, hatred, and disappointment. Each and every one of us wants that to be true. So let’s make it happen.

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