East Wheelock subs freshmen for applicants

by Nathan Swire | 10/5/07 3:04am

For the first time since the East Wheelock cluster's 1996 founding, some upperclass students who applied to live in the community were rejected -- at the same time as freshman who expressed no preference for living in the community found themselves assigned to East Wheelock.

East Wheelock, whose philosophy centers on integrating students' residential and academic lives, requires a separate application process of two personal essays in order to gain admittance.

This year, 22 of the 107 freshman housed in East Wheelock did not apply for rooms in the cluster. Director of Undergraduate Housing Rachael Class-Giguere said the 22 freshmen who did not apply to East Wheelock were assigned to live there because at 1,116 members, the Class of 2011 is especially large, and because so few of them applied to East Wheelock in comparison with previous years.

Class-Giguere said that the Office of Residential Life attempts to create as many freshman-only floors as possible during each housing cycle. Due to the large size of this year's freshman class, ORL was forced to place freshmen in East Wheelock to create enough first-year halls.

ORL's decision, however, has created unrest among some of the freshmen who did not wish to be housed in the cluster.

Eric Wang '11 did not apply to the East Wheelock cluster but was assigned a room in Morton -- despite listing a five out of five on the "social" and "rowdy" axes of his housing form.

"It sucks. It's far from everything," Wang said of his dorm. "It's really hard to get home from frat row at 3:00 a.m."

Placing Wang and other freshmen in the cluster reduced the number of beds reserved for upperclassmen to 135. As a result, some upperclassmen whose applications were accepted were unable to gain rooms in the cluster -- a problem that has never before surfaced.

"It had always seemed to work out that the number of people who showed up was the number needed to get the beds filled," Class-Giguere said.

Victoria Stockman '10, who reapplied and was accepted to East Wheelock after living in the cluster her freshman year, said she enjoyed the community's more studious atmosphere.

"It's quiet, it's nice, you've got a lot of professors at your fingertips, so I wanted that again this year," she said. "I got a bunch of friends who hadn't lived there to apply so we could live together."

Stockman and her friends drew moderate housing numbers going into East Wheelock room draw, but did not ultimately receive housing.

"We get there, we sit down, busily talking to each other as each room is pulled away before our eyes. After two hours of anxious sitting, we looked up at the board, and there was nothing left," Stockman said.

At the end of the meeting about 70 students remained without rooms, Stockman estimated.

Stockman questioned ORL's handling of East Wheelock room draw.

"Where did this rush of upperclassmen come from? Why would they accept 70 more people than they could house?" she asked.

Class-Giguere said that ORL will discuss the low freshman application rate with the management of the East Wheelock cluster.

"We will definitely be working with them to talk about either how to better explain what the program offers so more people are interested in applying, or [to see if] they say, 'We just don't want to have an application process for next year,'" Class-Giguere said.

For students whose housing process did not go as planned, there may be some silver lining.

Stockman and her friends still managed to get a room together, though it was not their first choice. Wang enjoys the privacy and better opportunities for personal hygiene afforded by his own private bathroom, and said the residents of his hall feel solidarity in their disappointing situation.

"You can bond in your shared misery," he said.

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