Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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‘Everything that could have gone wrong’: Housing selection process leaves NU students scrambling

Illustration by Ziye Wang
Students said they faced technical difficulties when trying to select housing.

When Weinberg freshman Savannah Hsu enrolled at Northwestern, she never imagined being sick for the first five months. She never imagined that an ear, nose, throat specialist would discover enlarged adenoids and say they were likely due to mold in her Bobb Hall dorm. She never imagined surgical removal would be her best option. 

Hsu never imagined she would have to live in Bobb again her sophomore year. But due to a mediocre priority number, technical difficulties during housing selection and not having any accommodations through AccessibleNU, the unimaginable became reality.

“We would sort of make jokes about it because there’s no way, but it actually happened,” Hsu said. “Everything that could have gone wrong in the housing process did go wrong.”

While Hsu said she regrets not submitting an accommodation request, she takes full responsibility for her decision. She didn’t submit a request for her illness because she said she believed those with more significant needs should have those spots — and she thought her priority number would be good enough to stay away from Bobb.

However, several students said they know people who have completely fabricated, or at least exaggerated, their needs for better rooms. 

“People lied about their religion, saying that they’re Muslim or they need to be Kosher, so that they could have a kitchen in their Kemper (Hall) suite,” said a Medill freshman, who asked to remain anonymous. “Or things like asthma, so they need to be in (Schapiro Hall) for (air conditioning) and cleanliness.”

In a statement to The Daily, Assistant Vice President of Wellness and Dean of Students Mona Dugo said the process of verifying accommodation requests is a “highly individualized” process. 

She said once an accommodation is approved, AccessibleNU and Residential Services work together to place students in environments that fulfill their needs with respect to room availability.

“AccessibleNU is mandated by the University to consider and implement reasonable accommodations for eligible students through the interactive process,” Dugo said in the statement. “AccessibleNU follows established policies and procedures to maintain compliance within state and federal laws in an effort to equitably support students.”

Weinberg sophomore Ellen Kim said her roommate’s priority number was three, so her group expected to have lots of options for single suites in Schapiro or Kemper. However, she logged in at 11 a.m. and found slim pickings.

Kim said the group was told by Residential Services that it could be due to All Gender Housing selection, which began at 9 a.m. 

In a statement to The Daily, Residential Services Director of Operations and Services Jenny Douglas said All Gender Housing does not improve a student’s priority number.

“All Gender Housing is available for students who seek a gender affirming and safe place to live on campus,” Douglas said. “Priority numbers are all randomly assigned regardless of a need for All or Single Gender Housing.”

Douglas also said the housing website limits the number of concurrent users so its server doesn’t crash. Since room selection spans multiple days, Douglas said this is usually an organized process. But, several students said the website was extremely “glitchy” this year.

Weinberg freshman Riley Hause said by the time the housing website loaded on her device — about an hour and a half after logging on — every single was gone. She secured a double in 584 Lincoln, a former fraternity house, the next day. 

Hause called Residential Services to see some photos of the dorm, since none were available on the housing website, but she said she was told to ask a current resident for a tour. When she and her roommate visited the building, though, there was nobody present, no furniture and floorboards everywhere, she said.

“I’m a little bit nervous just because it’s like, ‘I hope it’s done in time,’” Hause said. “And it’s kind of weird that (Residential Services) is not even saying ‘It’s under renovation, but it’ll be ready by the time the next year starts.’” 

Hause also said she doesn’t know how much it will cost to live in 584 Lincoln next year because of the incomplete website and mixed signals from Residential Services, but she said she’s hopeful the renovations will improve the dorm.

Weinberg freshman Madison Rozwat, Hsu’s future roommate, said her group tried to get a singles suite on North Campus because one of her group’s members had a good priority number. Rozwat said the list of available rooms took a long time to load, and when it did, the website would not allow her to select a room. 

“The locking icons just never popped up, so we could never select a room,” she said. “(The rooms) all went away before anything would load.”

Failing to nab a suite, the group split up. Since neither she nor Hsu had a good priority number, the only dorms left on North Campus were Bobb, Elder Hall and Sargent Hall. She said they decided to remain in Bobb Hall because of its location and familiarity.

Hsu said her parents are unhappy about her living in Bobb again, as they had to pay for an air purifier and filter refills in addition to the surgical procedure.

“We really shouldn’t have to be taking these drastic measures to get a somewhat livable dorm,” Hsu said. “And the fact that we’re going to have to be there next year too is pretty disheartening.”

She said her parents want her to apply for an accommodation post-selection, but she doesn’t know if AccessibleNU will permit it because the deadline has passed. If they don’t accept her request, Hsu said she may seek out an alternative housing plan for next year.

Several students said paying another student for their priority number is another way to upgrade room selection. Students said this is particularly popular with upperclassmen who will live off-campus next year or for those in Greek life. 

At the time of housing selection, some fraternities and sororities were under investigation, so it was unclear if members would be allowed to live in their chapter house. Those students went through regular housing selection, some of whom acquired high-demand rooms.

The Medill freshman holds a single in Foster-Walker Complex for next year and said they have received offers ranging from $700 to $1,800. 

“There was a really big demand because so many people were screwed over during the single (room selection) process,” they said. “People were fighting over Plex, which is a dorm that not many people in previous years have fought over.”

In a Facebook post viewed by The Daily, a parent alleged offers have gone as high as $10,000 for a sub-300 priority number. 

In the statement to The Daily, Douglas said University policy prohibits trading priority numbers for financial compensation.

“The Student Handbook states ‘subletting, purchasing, or rental of rooms to another individual outside of the assigned resident is always prohibited,’” she said. “‘This can include the solicitation of room changes for compensation.’”  

Douglas said the University is creating a Housing Master Plan to help “inform the residential experience” for the next 10 years. She said students can give input through focus groups, interactive workshops and an online survey.

Rozwat said she hopes some of the older dorms, especially those without air conditioning, will be renovated as part of the Housing Master Plan. 

“With all the renovations like Deering (Library) and a new (football) field, it just seems like housing is a more direct problem for the students,” Rozwat said. “It’s something we have to deal with every day.”

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