Amidst the excitement of Gala and the approaching finals week, students were asked to pick their residence for the upcoming academic year. To learn more about the housing selection process, The Student interviewed Molly Newton who is the Assistant Dean for Residence Life and Health Education.
Mariam Hayrapetyan: Why did Bates switch to HouseCat?
Molly Newton: Bates has been considering a switch to an online housing system for a number of years. Online systems like HouseCat allow us to make the housing selection process more flexible and less stressful for students. For the past several years we received feedback from students identifying that participation in the in-person housing lottery provoked anxiety and was not flexible enough for students who were away from campus, studying abroad, or taking a leave.
Using this feedback, we worked with our student steering committee to build both HouseCat applications and the online selection process. During the fall semester, we offered open meetings and opportunities for students to test the system and offer feedback. This feedback was a very important part of developing HouseCat as students experienced it during room selection, and is directly responsible for options such as roommate groups and housing profiles. We will continue to work with returning members of this group and others on campus to make improvements to the HouseCat system.
MH: What are the changes to housing for next year?
MN: Housing changes every year in response to all sorts of different factors. Renovations, use changes, and other factors can all impact the way we use buildings. Acknowledging that it is difficult to predict with certainty what small changes may impact availability of specific buildings, there are currently no plans to make significant changes to housing options or processes.
MH: What is the process of selecting an off-campus house?
MN: Our process for off campus housing remains the same. Groups are approved to live off campus via the Off Campus Lottery. Rising seniors are eligible to apply for 125 off-campus spaces, which are filled based on randomization. Because we do not break up groups, the actual number of students living off campus is usually a few above 125. Currently, there are no plans to reduce the number of students living off campus below 125. It is important to know that students do need to apply for off-campus housing, and that in some years not every group receives a position off-campus via the lottery.
MH: Will Bates continue using HouseCat the next year?
MN: Yes! We will continue to use and fine-tune HouseCat next year. Every time we use HouseCat, we learn more about how we can adapt it to better-fit student needs. So far, we have made adaptations based on feedback from Winter Placement (for students returning from abroad) and the Off Campus Lottery. After the recent housing selection processes, we have more adaptations in the works. For example, this year students were not able to form groups of two after housing selection was in progress. We heard from students that this was an option that they would like to have, so we are working on adapting the process for next year.
Unlike the old in-person lottery, HouseCat gives us the flexibility to make these types of changes. Our staff in the tech support room during the lottery worked with many students during this year’s housing selection. The feedback they received in the moment was overwhelmingly positive! Our goal is to continue to use all feedback we receive to continue to fine tune the housing selection process to minimize stress and anxiety while maintaining a fair system for selecting housing for the next year.