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Reed: Room retention process is a prime example of poor University communication

Chase Reed, Columnist

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Housing selection is currently underway, and hopefully you’re sitting pretty on top of the priority number totem pole, itching to claim your rightful spot in a swanky Shepard single or the newly-constructed 560 Lincoln. Or, if you’re anything like me, you decided months ago that you’d like to move a couple doors down the hall to live with a new roommate, one of your best friends, who decided they wanted to retain — or “squat” — their room for sophomore year. Unfortunately for us, this proved to be yet another encounter with the University’s poor transparency.

The process seemed easy enough at first. In January, I received an email from residential services outlining the procedure: “All Residential Community residents who completed a housing contract will receive an email from Residential Services asking them to confirm whether or not they wish to ‘squat’ their room for next year.”

By the time March rolled around, my prospective roommate and I had completed our contracts and sent out emails indicating our intent to retain his room. We kicked back our feet, certain that we were on the fast track to becoming roommates next fall. So you can imagine my surprise when, two weeks ago, I received an email stating that my priority number was available to view through a link on the housing website.

I was confused. I had been under the impression that priority numbers were issued only to students who weren’t sure where they planned to live on campus during the 2017-18 school year — a camp I didn’t consider myself a part of due to the fact that, in essence, I had already selected my room when my future roommate and I had indicated our plan to ‘squat’ earlier this year. Bewilderingly, my roommate hadn’t been issued a priority number of his own, suggesting that his request to ‘squat’ had gone through successfully, albeit with me being left out of the equation.

When I contacted residential services to clear up the fog, asking them why I hadn’t been assigned to my roommate’s room, I was met with the response that “if you weren’t living with him this year, there was no way that he could of pulled you in.” However, this crucial aspect of the retention process had not been explained at all to students.

As a result, I found myself strung out with a painfully high priority number and no idea about where I was going to live next year. This could have been avoided easily if the proper steps toward retaining a room had been outlined clearly, either in emails sent to students or in online entries on the housing website.

In order for the “squatting” process to be consistently effective, it is necessary that more information be conveyed to create a fluid and understandable experience. Something similar occurred earlier in the year as I researched how to apply to live in a dorm in East Fairchild. Even though I was able to find a link to the application early on in my hunt for information, it wasn’t until deeper perusal many months later that I unearthed an additional requirement related to the number of points I would need to earn as a non-resident member if I wanted to participate in housing selection.

It’s the same accessibility issue that affects information about NU’s dual-degree programs and its online student-activities portal: a lack of explicit transparency. By burying things within the thick, practically impassable web of NU’s online network, with dozens of disparate websites describing a gargantuan spectrum of University-specific information, it’s sometimes difficult to look beyond the forest for the trees. By clearing up, consolidating and better organizing the options that students have, especially in relation to housing, they’ll be able to avoid stress and have a better idea about what’s available to them — and what isn’t.

Chase Reed is a Communication freshman. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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