Vacancies in themed, Greek housing included in general lottery

Members of Rainbow House pose for a portrait on April 15,. (Ann Marie Burke / The Tufts Daily)

Once again this year, all open spaces in themed or Greek housing were put in the general housing lottery for the 2019–2020 academic year, allowing any student to select into them, according to Joshua Hartman, director of the Office of Residential Life and Learning (ORLL).

However, Hartman said in an email to the Daily, ORLL will be ensuring that students who decide to use their lottery number for themed housing will be making an informed choice.

“We have noted which programs are connected with any vacancies, so students are aware of what they are selecting,” he said. “Also, students will be connected with the program house manager and/or advisor as well.”

Hartman wrote he was confident that the introduction of themed and Greek life housing into the general lottery will actually improve campus culture.

“Our overarching goal is to have students involved in these sorts of communities … [and] be fully connected to the mission and purpose of the program,” Hartman said.  “We’re hoping that these communities are vibrant and energized, and instilling some ‘newness’ and excitement will be a huge plus.”

ORLL did its best to fill all spots before special interest housing was opened to the general lottery, according to Hartman.

“ORLL assisted [with] programs in marketing and promoting opportunities in the theme houses during the fall, and most houses (theme and fraternity/sorority) were able to fill their spaces and also maintain a waitlist,” Hartman said.

Hartman believes the strategy appears to have worked.

“There were only a very small handful (less than 10 across all 200+ spaces in wood frame and theme houses) [of] vacancies in these spaces going into housing selection in the spring,” he said. “We are talking about single-digits.”

Stana Luedtke, a junior, lived in the Russian-Slavic Culture House both this and last year. She confirmed that the house successfully filled its spots before general housing lottery.

The situation for next year is that everyone who’s living there applied and was chosen by the faculty director of the house,” she said.

Lomax Turner, a sophomore, is currently a resident of Rainbow House. Like the Russian House, there are no issues with vacancies for the coming academic year, but Turner noted that he heard there was a vacancy in Rainbow House last year, which Tufts filled during the general lottery.

“There was an issue last year where there was a straight person in the house and just ruined the vibe of the house,” Turner said.

Because of this experience, Turner is wary of filling vacancies with the general housing lottery.

“I think it’s a bad idea if you don’t identify with the identity,” he said. “Maybe in order to live there you have to prove that you’re going to be engaged and that you are the identity, but if that’s not the case, I don’t support it.”

Luedtke also touched on the potential for conflict.

“If someone came in through the lottery system it wouldn’t be the end of the world,” she said. “Every house would still exist and still put on culture events, but I know that in previous years when people lived here and weren’t invested in the Russian program, the dynamic was off and it didn’t really work as well.

However, Luedtke didn’t believe the house would be ruined by someone who didn’t identify with the theme.

“At the end of the day, it would still be the Russian House,” she said.

Hartman hopes to facilitate a smooth transition for any applicants who decide to live in themed housing as a result of the housing lottery.

“When students select a vacancy that is in one of those communities, our office plans to have an intentional conversation with the student about the program and the expectations of it, so that they can be a good member of the community,” he said.

The university will also be increasing its investment for themed housing in the coming year. According to Hartman, ORLL is hiring a full-time staff member to work with themed houses and fraternity and sorority houses who will support these programs and provide support for the residents.

Hartman also reported that ORLL has been working on a new house manager program for the past year and exploring a create-your-own themed housing option.

“We are engaging with students now to talk a bit about how this might work, and we hope to have a plan in place this fall for students to apply to create their own communities for the 2020–21 year,” he said.

Hartman encouraged students to reach out and share their thoughts with him or a member of the ORLL team if they had concerns.

“We are continually looking at our housing processes to keep improving and doing our best to support a vibrant, safe, and healthy residential community,” he said.