Housed By Resume

by Louisa Hunker | 4/12/99 5:00am

We do not know where we will be living next year. As '02s with somewhat less than stellar random housing numbers, we prefer not to think about how many hours we'll be spending walking back and forth to the river. But please note: we have accepted this fate with dignity and grace. We did not choose to apply for our only opportunity at dorm luxury: the East Wheelock cluster. We are repulsed by the new application procedure to this cluster. No, we wrote no essays, made no lists of extracurricular activities. We're committed to having a random computer assign us housing, not an administrator who gets to decide whether a ski team member or a Big Brother-Big Sister volunteer will better contribute to the East Wheelock community.

First of all, the system undermines the power of the random number generator, which, while it may not be "fair," is at least random. Situation: Two students have housing numbers as bad as Louisa's (4610). They each decide to apply to live in the East Wheelock cluster. Student A gets admitted into the cluster. The other, student F, is denied admission. Why? Maybe student F is not an English person and can't write quite as eloquent an essay as student A. Maybe student F is from Massachusetts and thus won't promote diversity as well as student A, who is from Wyoming. Or maybe Student A's conversations about President Wright's role in world peace are deemed more "meaningful" than Student F's nightly debate over Food Court versus. Homeplate. Student F is suddenly forced to find off campus housing, not because of an unlucky randomly-generated number, but because she is not deemed "worthy" to live in this elitist cluster. To many '02s, the random number generator has become the ultimate adversary, the flagship of unfairness, but surely the "super-cluster" selection process surpasses it.

And what about the Trustees' initiative and President Wright's commitment to developing nonexclusive social options? When the Trustees announced the social and residential life initiative, President Wright explained to The D that, "by definition, a fraternity or a sorority system is not inclusive of all members of the community. Finally Dartmouth needs to become a place that's more whole, where the entire community can share more fully in the life of the community." Why doesn't this ideology, and the critique of the Greek system, apply to the East Wheelock cluster? Next year should we expect to see the East Wheelock "pledges" traversing the campus clutching pink plastic lunch boxes? Or maybe sporting tell-tale East Wheelock nametags around their necks?

The irony is that this cluster is supposed to cultivate an increased sense of community among its residents. Yet it manages to undermine the community-ness of Dartmouth as a whole. Students applying to live in the East Wheelock cluster are not forging community; they are fiercely competing with each other, especially when the stakes are the opportunity to live on campus. And then there are the hard feelings between those whose bids are and aren't successful. Next year, student F may approach student A and say, "So, where are you living?" Student A replies, "The East Wheelock cluster- what about you? I thought you applied there too, but I haven't seen you around." "No," says student F, "I'm living in the River." After conversations such as these, how are students A and F supposed to create a feeling of community?

Moreover, the application process is coercion. Everyone knows East Wheelock is the Rolls Royce of dorms. Who can resist the temptation to trick the computer with a perverse sense of humor and avoid their sorry fates? If the administration says, "We will be absolutely as snobby as possible in choosing East Wheelock inhabitants," many may disagree in principle, but ultimately cave into the unreasonable demands after contemplating private bathrooms fit for royalty. Absolutely nothing is stopping the administration from fascist rule over cluster admission, including such a thing as conscience. It strong-arms students who can't say they'd rather not live in the nicest dorm on campus, or who have no other on-campus option thanks to their random housing number. There is no dissent to end this tyranny. Until now. Marcy and Louisa have fooled them. Sure, we might be living in someone's closet next year, but we refuse to jump through the hoops of this ludicrous admissions system.

As much as some of us may feel like creating a computer-shaped voodoo doll to destroy the random number computer, it has its justice. It may be discriminating, but it discriminates indiscriminately. All members of a class have an equal chance of getting screwed over. Yes, we can come to terms with the random number generator. So for goodness' sake, let it do its job and be random. Don't replace it with the subjective, community-undermining, snobby and exclusive East Wheelock cluster application procedure.