Your chest is filled with panic as you’re struggling to hear each other over the deafening voices. You and your roommate look around in desperation as number after number is called before you and your worst-case scenario options disappear before your eyes. The megaphone blares with diminishing hope and you watch blueprint after blueprint get crossed off with a red Sharpie. If you have never been to the Bates housing lottery, especially with a low lottery number, this is akin to what it feels like.
Bates College often feels ahead of its time in many ways, but the housing process is not one of them. While the process at most other colleges is a civil, online procedure, Bates has not caught up with the times on this aspect. Each student in the entire school that is planning to live on campus at Bates is assigned a housing lottery number. The lottery numbers are randomly assigned by class, ranging from sophomores to seniors; incoming freshman are exempt from the process. Depending on your class year, you must report to Chase Hall at a specific time. The walls of Chase are filled with blueprints of every available campus house, and there are red slashes through the rooms that have already been taken.
Most juniors and seniors are granted a room that is close to what they would have ideally wanted, but sophomores arguably get the short straw. To be a sophomore and get the number one lottery number, you are actually closer to number 1001 in the whole school, as all the juniors and seniors pick before you. After about halfway through the sophomore numbers, roughly 275 out of 500, there is no more on campus housing available. These unlucky sophomores must wait all summer in the Summer Housing process before discovering their living situation. I was number 265. My roommate and I got the last possible on campus double before the cutoff for summer housing.
While the lottery numbers may seem like a reasonable way of sorting out housing, the process of picking the room is not. There is little civility in Chase Hall on the evening of room picking, and anxiety certainly reigns. The biggest problem with the Bates housing lottery is that there is no way to have a plan before going into the event. You may have a list of your top twenty rooms that you want, and when they all disappear, what are you supposed to do next? Suddenly you’re blind in finding a room, not being familiar with the house or the room size or the closet space. Students are not given a chance to see the room in person as they are forced to make a decision on the spot. Friend groups are often split up as plans are thrown to the wind in the process.
One way that Bates has circumvented friends getting split up during this chaotic procedure is through suite lottery, themed houses, and block housing. These options allow friend groups to pick out whole chunks of Bates housing together, excusing them from the entire room-picking process. However, this is the only way to ensure that you will live in the same building as a friend. Every year students leave the housing lottery frustrated and disconcerted, voicing concerns of their distaste of the process. One wonders when Bates will switch to a more civil, electronic means of picking rooms or whether they will even switch at all.