Editorial: Housing changes, both good and bad

The Office of Residential Life and Learning (ResLife) announced changes to the housing and lottery system on Jan. 20. These changes were based on a 2016 Master Housing Survey, which included student input.  While the majority of these changes were positive, certain determinations further limit the already flawed off-campus housing options at Tufts.

Many of the alterations detailed in the email will improve Tufts students’ lives overall. While there are still all-female options, the fact that the entire housing lottery system now allows for all-gender rooming is a progressive step forward and one that should have happened years ago. Additionally, the idea of designating more housing by class year will benefit incoming first-years and enable them to make more social connections in their new community. Finally, allowing students to sign up for suites in units of five as opposed to ten makes suite-style living more attainable and manageable for smaller groups.

Unfortunately, not all of the changes are positive. Historically, students received the inverse of their sophomore-year number their senior year. The new policy dictates that students’ housing lottery numbers are drawn annually instead of all at once, which unfairly disadvantages first-years who have already been assigned low numbers their sophomore year. A less desirable housing situation during sophomore year will no longer guarantee better housing options for these students as seniors. The fact that students are paying the same on-campus housing price whether they live in a newly-renovated suite or a basement dorm in an older building underscores this disparity.

In addition, the new lottery system will inhibit students’ ability to sufficiently consider all of their available housing options. Off-campus housing is becoming more expensive at an alarming rate, and in order to find an affordable option in a convenient location, students typically have to sign leases in early fall of the previous school year. The fact that students will not know their senior year lottery numbers until the fall of junior year will make planning for housing in advance more difficult, especially since many students study abroad during their junior year.

The email announcing these changes notes that Tufts will be joining the ranks of most peer institutions that already draw lottery numbers on a similar annual basis. But the large percentage of Tufts students who live off campus, the skyrocketing rents in the Medford-Somerville area and the growing number of students attending Tufts overall necessitate a different policy that reflects these intersecting trends. The bottom line is that it is essential that the university works to develop more on-campus housing options for upperclassmen. Without further reforms, Tufts’ student housing system will continue to decline in fairness and quality.