Housing glitch changes odds for transfers

Rebecca Huval

The Undergraduate Housing Office assigned better housing priority numbers to transfer students this weekend after discovering an error in the distribution of the numbers that caused transfer students to receive freshman status in Northwestern’s housing assignment process, officials said.

But due to the need to quickly define who qualified as transfer students, all students with transfer credit on their transcripts — even non-transfer students who simply had taken college classes in high school — were bumped up in the selection process for on-campus housing.

The mislabeling of non-transfer students has resulted in oddities such as a regular freshman jumping from priority numbers of 743 to 23b — ahead of most sophomores and juniors.

Undergraduate Housing realized on Saturday morning that transfer students were given freshman priority numbers because of the information sent by CAESAR. Instead of using the transfer students’ year in college, the system only acknowledged their time spent at NU.

“We rely on the university to let us know what class (students) are in,” said Mark D’Arienzo, associate director of university housing. “Not all of that information was transferred to us accurately.”

The mix-up has left passed-over upperclassmen feeling that they have been treated unfairly.

“I’m hoping they’re going to fix it,” said Maryam Khan, a Weinberg sophomore. “I’ve been here longer.”

D’Arienzo said a transfer student sent housing an e-mail on Friday night about her unusually high priority number that “triggered our attention.” Students with high priority numbers, generally underclassmen, pick later in the housing process.

“We’ve been working all weekend to make this the best process,” D’Arienzo said. “I was at my desk until 12:30 last night.”

Knowing the action might give some non-transfer students an advantage, housing officials decided to acknowledge students with transfer credit as transfer students because they thought it was the fairest way to handle the situation, D’Arienzo said.

“We gave everyone the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “We realize that that may have increased some students’ priorities, but it did not decrease anyone’s.”

Transfer students said they were grateful when they received their corrected housing numbers.

“I was really excited,” said transfer student Omoseni Sulyman of his corrected number. “I was like, ‘I’m getting into Kemper!'”

Sulyman, a McCormick sophomore, said he wasn’t even going to go through the housing process with his first number.

“I already started talking about off-campus housing,” Sulyman said. “I was not going to live on-campus with (a priority number of) 750.”

Non-transfer students with transfer credit said they got even better deals.

Charles Wojnarski, a Weinberg freshman with transfer credits, started out with a priority number of 742 and ended up with 23b.

“It was just kind of weird,” Wojnarski said. “I’ve only been here three quarters. I hope it’s not a glitch.”

Providing that it was not a glitch, Wojnarski said he was happy that he will get the room he wants for next year.

Some non-transfer students with transfer credits felt guilty about their new fortune.

“I feel bad that there are some people that are older than me that got worse numbers,” said Marieke Lahey, a McCormick sophomore. “But it wasn’t my fault that that happened. There wasn’t anything I could do.”

Undergraduate Housing has encountered similar problems in the past. D’Arienzo said transfer students were also given freshman priority numbers last year.

“We will review and implement changes for next year,” D’Arienzo said. “(We) hope that next year’s process is smoother than this year’s process which was smoother than last year’s process. We’re moving right along.”

Despite housing officials’ continuous efforts to improve the process, some students don’t have much hope.

“I don’t have very high expectations for the housing process,” said Khan, the frustrated Weinberg sophomore.

“It should be online like CAESAR to avoid all of the mix ups,” she added. “If it was going to be fair, it would just be a lottery instead of something different every year.”