How to Make Room Draw Better: A List

Courtesy of Miller Saltzman
Courtesy of Miller Saltzman

by Michael Caldwell

Contributing Reporter

You can’t always get what you want. That’s life, and Pitzer’s Room Draw process is no exception. However, the Room Draw protocol stands to dramatically change the number of unhappy participants with the simple addition of an off-campus waiting list. If adopted, I believe this change to the yearly housing process would make it so both Pitzer’s administration and its student body each get a little bit more of what they want.

What does Pitzer want? The answer is the same as for most institutions and people: at its heart, the school wants money. If it didn’t, the administration wouldn’t ask us, or our guardians, for donations on top of the tuition we already pay, and it would care less about students choosing to live off campus. With a total enrollment of 1,081, Pitzer features enough housing for 843 students in the on-campus residence halls. At Pitzer, 75 percent of students live on campus, compared with the 12 percent national average for enrolled college students. Unfortunately, between P.A.S., W.E., and Mead, only Mead, a structure built in the 60s, offers a living situation different from first-year style dorms. The choices are slim. Pitzer’s 2012 net revenue from students was roughly 46 million. A large chunk of this total ($11.3 million) comes from the Room and Board fees paid by Pitzer students and their families. It comes as no surprise that Pitzer makes it a priority to fill up its dormitories.

As a prospective student I was told that I would be able to move off campus after my sophomore year, and I was not the only one. Contrary to what many students heard when they toured the college, Pitzer students are required to live on campus for their first three years. As you are probably aware, those that live on campus are also required to purchase either the 12 or 16 meal plan, while off campus residents can purchase the 5 meal plan or none at all. Altogether, the cost of living on campus ranges between $14,210 and $15,890, compared to the $8,500 a student can pay living off campus with a roommate. As many are aware, students that wish to live off-campus may apply in February before Room Draw occurs in April. The application requires that you state the address of your off-campus residence 6 months before moving in, thereby encouraging students to arrange for and commit to off-campus residence agreements. If a student’s application is denied and the student fails to register for Room Draw, the student will still be forced to pay for on campus Room and Board.

Though I expressed what I felt were compelling reasons for living off campus in my off-campus application, I was denied along with many other hopeful students. I was distraught because I had already put down a deposit on an off-campus apartment and after running the numbers, I was set to save around $8,000 dollars.

After my application denial, I scheduled a meeting with the Director of Housing, Tressi Chun, to see if there was any action I could take in order to live off-campus. Before going into the meeting, I was told by many Pitzer students on separate occasions that I should lie to the Housing Director in order to get what I want. Some proposed that I claim to have an unspecified medical issue, while a former RA suggested I feign an alcohol dependence and a need to remove myself from the party scene on campus. Apparently, this had worked for other students in the past. I recall one student suggesting, “Well, if you don’t get it approved you can get kicked off campus if you hold a beer in front of an RA and they write you up three times.” It is clear that the current state of Room Draw rewards truth-twisters and rule-flouters, but I was set on being honest.

When I met with Tressi, she appeared to be more than happy to listen to my complaints, as if doing so had become a routine part of her job. I asked her if there was a waiting list I could join in case the college ran out of room on campus. She said there was not. I then asked if there was any opportunity to appeal the Housing Committee’s decision on my application, which of course there was not. The decision was “final.” Though one of the most important aspects of our lives at Pitzer, where we live, is not up for student petition, there is an efficient and effective petition process for joining a class late. I also asked if I could trade my on-campus position with someone that lived off-campus, which was surprisingly, a “no.” I asked her why I was told as a prospective student that I would be able to live off campus after my sophomore year. She responded that she had received that complaint a lot, and that it must have been a disconnect between the Housing department and the Admissions office. Lack of communication between departments at such a small school is concerning, especially if it was intentionally overlooked or uncorrected, further enticing prospective students with false information. There was clearly nothing I could do. I took a deep breath and reminded myself of the opening to this article. I proceeded to comply with the Room Draw process and apply for on-campus housing with a friendship cluster which was actually (plot twist coming here) approved. As it turned out, many other students were not so lucky.

Now that Room Draw has come and gone, Pitzer has overbooked its residence halls. At a small school, it doesn’t take long for rumors to spread. The current rumor is that there are over 60 students without housing placement for the 2015-2016 school year and some denied off-campus applications are being rescinded. If I am contacted by the Housing Office with a sudden approval for off-campus housing, I will have nowhere to live because their firm and unshaking denial convinced me to cancel my deposit and take my name off the renter’s list a month ago. A simple off-campus waiting list for students whose off-campus applications were denied could have prevented the current problem. Now the Housing Office has a headache, and quite a few students are disgruntled at what was once one of “America’s happiest colleges.” Though I am going to live on-campus regardless next year, I feel that we should use our Student Senate to pass a waiting list for off-campus housing. But hey, it’s an average of 75 degrees outside, and the 5C’s are a great place to be. I do not wish to complain, just to offer a simple solution. Have a nice day, Pitzer.


National Average of students living on campus:

Percent of Pitzer students living on campus:

Pitzer’s 13-14 Budget indicating net profit off of students living on campus:

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