The top prospects of the freshman class anxiously wait in the concourse. Cameras have been all over campus documenting the mayhem. ESPN has even convinced Student Life to push the dates back to build more hype surrounding what these freshmen have been training for their entire lives. A dignified man in a three-piece suit steps out on stage. In a stern yet proud tone, he leans into the microphone and states, “With the first pick in the 2014 Upperclassman House Draft, the men of Lowrey select…”
Wait, stop. This never happened. Choosing an upperclassman house, such as Howard, Ferguson or even Sylvester is nothing like the NFL draft. However, wouldn’t that be exciting? Let’s come back to this later.
The current format for freshmen to select upperclassmen housing follows a system that has been tried, tinkered and improved over the last decade or so to find the fairest possible system. Reid Charlston, a Buck house alumnus and current Home Life Manager, explained, “The goal is to give the highest number of people, the highest choice possible. That’s a tricky way of saying, ‘It’s not giving the most people the most first choices possible.’”
At some point in the spring semester, freshmen fill out a request sheet where he or she lists the top four upperclassmen houses in the order of the house desired. For example, a freshman art major with a love for the color red may organize her list like this: Howard, Sylvester, Brooks, Joe. This way, she can be close to Voney, order a Howard sweatshirt, and live in a Maybeck house.
After the students turn in their request forms, it is in the hands of Student Life. However, the current system is not designed for the highest number of first choices, but rather for the maximum number of people to receive one of their top choices. In a meeting with the student body president and vice president, the Home Life Manager, and the Dean of Students, all of the request forms are laid out, face down, on a table in an undisclosed location. The team then proceeds to pick up each request sheet one at a time, in no particular order, and then assign freshman into the respective house according to spaces available.
According to Student Life, 50 to 60 percent of students receive their first choice, but it depends on the year and the available space in the house. “We have yet to find the perfect system that gets everyone their first choice,” Charlston said. “It does affect house pride.”
House pride is certainly a topic that has come up throughout President Board meetings this past semester. During Week 11, student government will be hosting a spirit week on campus to encourage house pride. The goal is to get people excited about the house they live in, which will be accomplished by friendly competition and prizes for the top houses. Sophomore Hannah McCauley, Brooks house president, said, “I think house pride in general is struggling, but it’s hard to build.” When asked about the current format of upperclassman house requests, she continued, “I think the system we’re on is fine. However, I do think there could be a better way to have more ways of freshmen getting into houses.”
The question still stands: what is a sure-fire way of getting into one’s desired house? A funny loophole could be putting your preferred house as your fourth choice, and then turning in the request sheet late. “I can’t think of a single person that got their fourth choice who didn’t turn theirs in late,” Charlston said when reasoning as to why students don’t receive their first or second choice.
Ultimately, the system currently in place has been tried and tested to be the fairest possible method of placing freshman in upperclassmen housing.
Some students advocate for a “draft,” similar to the spectacle detailed where we bring in ESPN cameras and have Dean of Students Debra Jones announce each freshman one-by-one into their respective houses. For those who don’t enjoy the politics of the NFL draft, just think of it as the sorting hat from “Harry Potter.” This may increase house pride, but it could also lead to serious problems with feelings of exclusivity, favoritism and bias.
It depends what Principia wants to value more: fairness, or squads of ladies in red on Fridays, suited gentlemen on Tuesdays, or rowdy guys screaming “WEST!” The answer for a long time has been fairness, and to the dismay of misplaced students, it will most likely stay this way. Hey, students can always transfer houses at the end of the semester.