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Housing applications require clarity

Tomorrow morning, the new Residential Life housing application will open for returning students. Changes to the system unveiled in the last week include a new housing portal website, a time slot-based system and alterations to the group formation system.

While the new adjustments were outlined in emails from Residential College Directors and discussed at information sessions, the Student Life Editorial Board worries that many students—specifically upperclassmen—are confused and unaware of how the changes will affect them.

Information sessions, which occurred Jan. 22-25, were on the South 40 (with the exception of one session in the Lofts). While technically open to students of all years, the chosen locations of the meetings indicate the precedence of underclassmen interests and questions, while upperclassmen are left out.

If policies had remained unchanged, we would understand this distribution of assistance, as most upperclassmen have gone through the housing selection process before and are more familiar with the procedures and options available. This year, however, is different: The changes affect everyone.

One major change comes from the elimination of the “homestead” system for most off-campus apartments. Originally expanded in 2008, the system allowed residents to remain in the same apartment in the same residential area for the following year if they wished to do so. Now, the option only exists for the Lofts. To the best of our knowledge, this change was not widely announced, and the only evidence of it exists in a small blurb on the ResLife website. Many students rely on homesteading to avoid being relegated to a more unaffordable option, and for many, it is too late to reorganize and attempt to find an off-campus apartment.

Additionally, the process remains confusing for those unable to remain with their chosen group. The website states that students not assigned housing during their time slots will be “assigned administratively.” Illuminating more of the system’s intricacies might help students create backup plans in case they are split up or do not get their chosen housing selection.

Of course, it is the responsibility of students to investigate these changes before applying. But inevitable website issues and random questions will arise as the application process begins. To help remedy this, we believe that the Office of Residential Life should highlight the ability of Residential College Directors, residential advisers and Washington University Student Associates to help students navigate the process.

As students await the unveiling of the housing application system, the Editorial Board would like to encourage them to contact ResLife employees with any questions before it’s too late to change their selection, and we ask ResLife to maintain transparency when making policy changes.