Online room draw causes room drama

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Illustration courtesy of Julia Driscoll

It was 9:29 a.m. on my first room draw day, and the loud noise coming from whatever creature resides in the Braun AC units was in full force. The moment I had been waiting for the entirety of my first year — picking my own room — had arrived. As a New England boarding school graduate who spent four years of my life shuffling my blue blazer from closet to closet, living in a dorm room had lost its romantic allure. But this time was different.

Having just woken up from my deep slumber, I was already panicking at the thought of having to pitch a tent on Stewie Beach if all the rooms were gone. My anxiety slowly morphed into nausea as I laid in my spacious Braun triple, watching the eRezLife countdown. 30, 29, 28: the numbers ticking down correlated with my increasing heart rate. My destiny was just one click away. This heightened anxiety would have been alleviated if room draw wasn’t online, but was in person instead.

Countless Oxy students can empathize with the adrenaline rush of staring at your computer on room draw day, hoping to snag the last single in Wylie. In this case, trying to get the room of your dreams can actually be more of a nightmare. Holding room draw online does not prioritize students’ everyday lives and class schedules. Although I was not a student when Residential Education & Housing Services (REHS) was using their old room draw method, I know students would line up numerically in Berkus Hall and chose their rooms from blueprints when it was their turn. If REHS reverts to its previous room draw system, students will no longer have to deal with the stress of refreshing eRezLife, hoping that the odds will be ever in their favor.

Not only is room draw inconvenient and stressful due to its online format, but it also takes place during one of the last weeks of school, which is the worst time of the year. Collectively, Occidental students are pushing for that last grind in the semester, and room draw only adds to the stress when you have five midterms, seven papers, three group projects and an underwater basket weaving final to deal with. As exciting and important as room draw is for many students, it’s not like any of the rooms are going anywhere. Last I checked, all of the residence halls would still be okay if room draw happened earlier in the semester.

Depending on your time slot, room draw can also come at an inconvenient time of day. It’s nearly impossible to go through room draw when you are in class, at work or at practice. This year, my room draw time was fortunately right in the middle of my Friday morning class. The cherry on top of my room draw sundae was that the professor of this class is adamantly technology-free. Thankfully, my professor understood that room draw was a stressful, time-sensitive burden on me and my peers, so she let us use our laptops that day. However, if my professor did not allow for an exception, my classmates and I would be at a disadvantage. Online room draw is not a great equalizer.

I understand why most professors in technology-free classrooms only allow students to use their computers during class registration week. As important as living in the perfect Newcomb double with plenty of natural light is, classes are (for the most part) more important. Graduation is contingent upon meeting major and minor requirements, not coveting your dream room. But if room draw is going to be held online, the same expectations should apply. Hypothetically, registering online is easier than registering in person, but the reality is far from it. From my experience at boarding school, having to log in on a portal can often be more stressful than signing up person. At least the old system would allow you to meet new students in line — making room draw a communal struggle — instead of leaving you to sit alone in your room and stress about the Wi-Fi suddenly crashing.

On that note, Occidental’s Wi-Fi is slow enough without having upward of 500 students at a time logging onto eRezLife. When I went through room draw this year, my heart rate went up to what felt like over 300 beats per minute when my attempts at logging in to eRezLife failed. Washed over with a wave of sheer panic, I rushed to do what I could to remedy the situation with my basic IT skills. So, I quit my browser, turned the WiFi function on and off and refreshed the page.

Going through this room draw experience taught me two important life lessons. One, the internet is not your friend. Two, a newer method doesn’t always mean a better one. The place you come back to at the end of every day matters, even if it’s a college dorm — yet upon graduation, finding and renting apartments is a much more integrative process. In order to better prepare us for life after Oxy, ResEd needs to make room draw an interactive, in-person experience.

Elizabeth Brewer is a sophomore English and Politics double major. She can be reached at brewere@oxy.edu.