Numbers were chosen at random from a silver pitcher and names were read off simultaneously after each number was called aloud. There were cheers, jeers, sighs of relief, and groans of disbelief among the members of the class of 2004, who situated themselves in a circle surrounding the administrators of the lottery.
At 5:30 p.m. Monday, the lottery process commenced for rising Saybrook juniors. The students will have until Friday evening to create a list of their top picks for rooms and suites before the actual senior room draw.
This scene is not unique to Saybrook — the other 11 residential colleges will be holding room draws and lotteries during the first weeks of April. For many Yale College students, particularly underclassmen, the process of finding a suite for next year can be daunting, to say the least. It is at this time of the year that students may discover “who their real friends are,” and whether they possess that lucky touch that will propel them to the top picks of their college’s lottery.
Carly Guss ’06 and Fidel Martinez ’06 are the newest members of Jonathan Edwards’ housing committee and said they joined to gain a better idea of how the room draw process transpires.
They said there are no perks to being on the housing committee.
“All rising JE sophomores move into triples, so there’s not really a choice,” Guss said. Guss’ suite of six, currently living in Farnam on Old Campus, will simply split itself in half. Martinez’s group of three will likewise by vying for a triple, but he said he regretted having to leave his spacious suite in Farnam.
“The [triples] are called ‘the sophomore slums,’” he said.
The housing draw operates by seniority, allowing juniors the option to apply for housing in JE proper or in McClellan Hall on Old Campus. The specifics of the room draw regulations vary by college, but each college has stipulations on “clipping,” “squatting,” “ghosting,” “mixing” and other obscure terms.
Saybrook appears to have some of the strictest rules in comparison to other colleges. Within the college, accelerated students must draw with their original class, and suites with “mixed” membership of two different classes must draw for the lowest class represented. In other colleges like Branford and Calhoun, mixed groups draw by majority rule, and in Berkeley College, mixed suites draw “between the classes of which they are composed.”
“Clipping” occurs when two rooms or suites share a lottery pick in hopes of obtaining adjacent rooms or suites. Though some believe clipping has advantages, the likelihood of finding two rooms together — depending on one’s pick in the housing draw — is small.
“It is preferable for rising seniors to go through the room draw process to get a less ‘cozy’ room,” said Patricia Jumelle ’04 of the JE housing committee. “It was kind of funny — 6 boys went for the sextet and lost. Then [after splitting themselves in half], they went for 2 [adjacent] four-room triples , and lost again. Someone calculated that that was a 1-in-200 chance.”
“Squatting” allows the majority of the members in a suite to choose to remain in the same suite for the next year, and “ghosting” occurs when a student enters a room draw knowing that he or she intends to live off-campus. Ghosting is strictly prohibited in every college, and perpetrators are subject to heavy fines as stated by the Undergraduate Regulations.
As in JE, rising Saybrook sophomores have little or no say in the category of rooms in which they would like to live. They are placed in as many sextets as possible.
Juniors have more flexibility, but since Yale College only guarantees on-campus housing for freshmen and sophomores, nothing is certain.
“When Saybrook was first renovated, there was a housing crunch,” said Jennifer Lee ’04, a member of the housing committee. “I think over the last two years, it has normalized to the levels from before.”
For those who wish to live in certain special “party suites,” one stipulation is that the proposed inhabitants are capable of carrying out this important social function.
Take, for example, the Cottage in Davenport.
According to Davenport College housing regulations, “if more than one group of seven students registers for the Cottage, the Cottage suite will be assigned by a secret ballot vote of the rising senior class to be held at the start of the senior draw.”
The groups vying for the exclusive housing will first have to state to the housing committee why they are qualified for the task.
Often, rising juniors have the option of living in annex space on Old Campus as opposed to in their colleges.
Luke Rona ’04, who lives in Durfee Hall and is one of the current junior housing committee representatives for Calhoun, had nothing but compliments about his living situation.
“Durfee has five long floors. The common rooms are newer and brighter, and the ceilings are higher,” he said.
Rona’s said his “quint,” comprised of three singles and a double, is one step up from where he stayed during freshman year.
“In Bingham, I lived in a double that I’m very sure used to be a single,” he said.
For some students, like Jennifer Piro ’04, the housing process is “the worst thing [Yale students] have to go through.”
“Housing is stressful for everybody,” Piro said.
But for others, the uncertainty of the housing lottery process has had unexpected advantages.
“My freshman year, my roommate and I got along very well, but she decided to join a suite of three girls,” Noemi Najbauer ’04 said, and added that the experience of having no one to enter the housing draw with was stressful. “But I was able to join a new suite, which turned out to be a fortunate choice.”
Najbauer said she and her suitemates decided to continue living together during their junior year and senior year.
“We felt it would be good to have a group of friends around senior year for support and companionship,” she said. “It was definitely something that worked out well.”