Students face challenges under new housing selection system and question effectiveness

When Butch Nasser ’25 logged on to the housing portal for his door time last Thursday, he was hoping to find a men’s doubles at Kimball Hall. What he saw on his screen was a much different message: “There are no rooms available that match your criteria.”

Nasser spent the next half hour refreshing the page until a few more pieces appeared. But they were all in Mirrielees, where Nasser knew he couldn’t live.

Mirrielees, which offers apartment living, requires residents to pay around $1,400 for three-quarters of the accommodation in addition to regular housing charges. As a first-generation, low-income (FLI) student, Nasser cannot afford these additional fees, which are not covered by any of Stanford’s financial aid programs. Now his only option is to hope that he can convince someone to switch residences with him, or that he will be reassigned to a new dorm in July.

This year marked the second year that students have signed up for housing under the recently introduced Neighborhood System, a ResX initiative launched this year that divides townhouses, themed housing, apartments and Stanford dormitories between seven different neighborhoods, each bearing a different letter of the Stanford Name.

Along with the Neighborhood System, which seeks to create meaningful and strong residential communities for students, a new self-selection model has been implemented to allow students to secure housing for the upcoming school year. It was created to address some of the complexities and inequities of the old lottery system.

But, as students registered for accommodation last week, many of the same concerns resurfaced. While Stanford administrators acknowledge that these concerns and disappointments are nothing new, they plan to incorporate student feedback as they continue to adjust the new assignment process.

When Nasser was first assigned to Mirrielees, he emailed the financial aid office to see if he could get financial support for the additional costs of the residence. They told him that while his scholarship didn’t cover Mirrielees’ living expenses, he could upgrade from an undergraduate meal plan of 21 meals a week to an apartment meal plan of five meals a week. and cook their own meals to save money. The suggestion did not take into account the additional expense of buying her own groceries.

“I think for FLI students it’s a bit predatory to force someone into a room that costs more than they can afford. [and] say one of your best options is to eat less, basically,” Nasser said.

Seeking another solution to his predicament, Nasser emailed R&DE’s student housing division, asking if there was a way for him to switch housing with other students.

The student housing division said it would implement a self-swap process where students could voluntarily switch rooms with each other in a group chat, with the caveat that they could not switch. of room than if they had identical room types—in Nasser’s case, one-bedroom and neutral double, which Nasser never intended to live in.

While Nasser’s primary concern with life in Mirrielees is financial, he also worries about the mental strain of living in apartment-style housing in sophomore year. Compared to a traditional dormitory, Nasser worries about the isolation he will experience in Mirrielees without any other members of his draw group.

“This is not how I imagined spending my second year at Stanford. Freshman year was great in a dorm, and I really wanted to live at least one, maybe even two, three [years] with that [in a dorm] and it looks like it’s not going to happen,” Nasser said.

Unlike the previous system, in which R&DE placed draw groups together for housing, the new format offers groups a selection time by draw, but no guarantee that they will live together.

Ward F resident Hasan Ahmad ’25 also wanted to live in Kimball, but he and his roommate were the only ones in their group to be placed in Mirrielees next year. “It’s ironic how a system that was supposed to increase the number of communities actually serves as a barrier for many sophomores who want that community,” Ahmad said.

According to Associate Vice Provost for Residential Education Cheryl Brown, residential education will place more emphasis next year on building community in apartment-style housing. Administrators have already begun seeking feedback regarding the residential experience in these apartments, and Brown said ResEd will be more intentional about involving second-year residents in community life and connecting them to neighborhood programming.

“I hope they don’t feel too disconnected,” Brown said.

While sophomores in Ward F lamented their placement in apartment-like housing, upperclassmen in different wards were disappointed with their inability to secure those same residences. Some are now willing to pay other students to switch rooms with them.

For Quennie Nguyen ’24, Mirrielees, with EVGR, offers the exact living situation she is looking for. “The environment at EVGR is known to be isolated, but conducive to study and that’s exactly what I’m looking for,” says Nguyen.

As a resident of O Ward, however, by the time her gate time rolled around on Wednesday, there were no more slots available in EVGR. His only options available were a last place at Storey, a self-op in the row, and rooms at Florence Moore. Nguyen decided to claim last place from Storey. “It’s so frustrating because it’s not like the spaces aren’t there,” Nguyen said, explaining that her neighborhood and gender cap limited her access to EVGR rooms.

Nguyen, who will work and attend school full time next year, while applying to medical school and taking the MCAT and GRE, feels it is necessary to have a conducive living space. to his university life.

After running into hurdles with R&DE, she resorted to offering to pay students to switch dorms with her. She received an offer, a complicated offer requiring two people to change accommodation and to pay the difference of moving from Mirrielees to Storey. However, that is unconfirmed, and she still hopes to be reassigned in July.

N Ward resident Devin Heart ’23 had saved his best housing option for his senior year. This would have been rewarded under Stanford’s old lottery system, in which students kept their first-tier accommodation for their senior year, but no longer applies to the self-selection model.

While seniors are given early door hours, giving them priority in choosing their preferred accommodation, Heart has still not been able to get the single at EVGR or Mirrielees he wanted. He now finds himself in exactly the same life situation he had this year: a hat-trick at Mirrielees.

Heart believes that having a private space as a senior shouldn’t be considered a luxury. “I’m not saying everyone should always get what they want, but it should be a fair system where the upper classes don’t get screwed,” Heart said.

Like Nguyen, Heart says he’s willing to pay other students to switch rooms with him and risk breaking his housing contract so he can get just one. He said these types of informal housing arrangements have happened over the past few years, but under the new housing model, an increasing number of students are participating in these informal exchanges.

“Students will literally pay more than a few thousand dollars to get the accommodation they want because the quality of life of living in a shared room, in cramped quarters, as an upper class, is so poor,” Heart explained.

To date, Heart has received many room swap offers. He will wait for the reassignment to switch definitively in his life situation.

While Brown acknowledges that the housing assignment process can be difficult, particularly for seniors who have not been able to secure their preferred housing, she pointed out that the disappointment students may feel with their housing is by no means something new. “I think every year people have felt that,” Brown said.

Still, the University intends to incorporate feedback from upperclass students into future administration plans, according to Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole.

Some students worry that there aren’t many opportunities to deal with complaints while working within the ward system. Students in certain neighborhoods, such as Ward F, face a particularly difficult housing process due to the few options available to students – the only non-pre-posting or Greek housing options students could live in were Kimball Hall, EVGR, Mirrielees and the Grove. The grove is only open to upper classes. Rising sophomores, who were looking for housing in Kimball in droves, were assigned to EVGR and Mirrielees, which were the first choice of many students in other neighborhoods. Housing in EVGR and Mirrieless is spread across all neighborhoods.

For Ahmad, the neighborhood system “goes against most of the goals of the university, which is to have as diverse, exciting and ever-changing experience as possible, given that, for the rest of your life, you’re going to be in an apartment, or you’re going to live with the same person or people.

Students also believe that the neighborhood system has failed in one of its primary goals – fostering community among students. “That’s not how you build community — force people to live in places,” Heart said, calling the neighborhood system a “talking point.”

According to Brown and Brubaker-Cole, the neighborhood system was built in response to the difficulties students had in recent years in maintaining community and friendships as they moved to different locations on campus each year.

“The model that we’re working with right now, with neighborhoods, is to alleviate some of that reshuffling, reshaping every year of the community,” Brubaker-Cole said.

Brown and Brubaker-Cole both pointed out that the model is still in its very first year of implementation, so the administration is constantly making adjustments and learning from students about the potential for improvement – ​​the model has underwent various changes in January, responding to student feedback.

“The neighborhood system is like the framework or foundation of a building that we rely on students to help us complete,” Brubaker-Cole said.

Sara H. Byrd