Section: News

Inadvertent emails kick off new online housing system

On Feb. 7, several students received an email from Residential Life (ResLife) informing them of something impossible: that their current roommate would be moving in shortly. Later that evening, Associate Director of Housing and Operations Lisa Train sent out an email to the student body to clarify the situation.

The automatically generated emails were a result of ResLife activating their new online housing management system, “Residents,” according to Train. When the new system was integrated with the old one, most of the auto-generated emails had been turned off, except for the roommate notification setting.

“The problem is [email notifications] were turned on when it kicked over live,” Train said. “And so when it brought the system over to live, it read all those assignments as new roommates and auto-generated an email [that] said, ‘Hey, congratulations. This is your roommate that’s been living there for six months.’” 

Train said ResLife was able to catch the error before emails were sent out to the entire student body. At the same time, she apologized for the confusion, which had resulted in ResLife receiving several emails from concerned students.

“If it was different roommates, that would have been even worse, more confusing,” Train said. “But being notified that your roommate’s moving [in], that’s been there for six months already — I’m sorry about that.”

Despite this mishap, Train said there is much to look forward to about the updated housing management system, which she had been pushing for several years. Notably, the new system will start a conversion to a digital housing lottery: Starting this semester, students will skip the long lines in Gund Ballroom. Everything, from single dorm-rooms to student apartments, will be online.

“The pen and paper is fine — we’re a smaller school, we’re able to do it, we’re not 20,000 students,” Train said. “But I also know that it’s very stressful having to come to the Ballroom. … So now you can do it from the comfort of wherever you want to be, just on the computer.” 

While Train said ResLife has yet to iron out all the scheduling details, she noted that students will sign up in five-minute slots. Contrary to what it might seem, Train clarified that this does not mean students have less time to register. Similar to the course registration process, the lottery will remain open for a certain window, during which students who have missed their slots can still register.

“You don’t have to go in that five minutes, but if you want your five minutes that nobody else can sign in with, those are your five minutes and only your five minutes,” Train said. “We don’t want battles starting, so everybody will get a five-minute block.”

Another benefit of the online system is that ResLife will no longer have to deal with “proxies” — students who sign up on behalf of other students who can’t make their assigned selection times. This might include athletes whose workouts overlap with registration or students with evening seminars.

With the new system, students who can’t make their timeslots can email ResLife with their housing choices in advance. “The system doesn’t recognize proxies, but basically [Coordinator of Housing and Office Operations Beth Pae] and I will have access to the back end,” Train said, “so we could basically be proxies for people.”

Train emphasized the benefits of the new system for groups of students looking to live together. Rather than everyone having to show up at the same time, the person with the highest lottery number can enter in their group during their timeslot, after which automated emails will be sent out to  the other members of the group. “When you form a group for housing selection it will magically tell you who the people are, and if you remove somebody from a group to take in somebody else,” she said.

In general, Train said that the online housing management system will make things smoother for students on lottery day.

“I think it helps some of the nervousness and the stress,” Train said. “I think the first time for people might be difficult because it’s always it’s scary [when] it’s online …. I don’t want anyone thinking like, ‘Hey, when’s lottery? When do we go into the Ballroom?’ I want everyone to know [what’s going on].”

Train and Pae are planning to table at Peirce Dining Hall and host an open forum in the Ballroom to answer questions about the new system. Additionally, emails containing further information will be sent out in the coming weeks.


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