Room for change: Housing Services set to transform University’s room selection process

Charles Beers, Assistant News Editor

The University’s Office of Housing Services is currently refining a new program that seeks to reform how students select their rooms for the upcoming academic year. The online service will attempt to eliminate the need for students to wait for long hours for their lottery numbers to be called and enable them to have more control over their room choice if their original plans fall through.

The opportunity to move the room selection process from the tedium of paper forms to the convenience of online “room shopping” arose in 2014. Director of Housing Services Stephen Apanel described how the idea came to fruition:

“We were talking about the processes we do in housing with our library and IT colleagues. Knowing their capabilities and University software, we thought about what other options were out there,” Apanel said.

The year was an ideal time for change, as computer software for university-related applications has become a growing industry. Housing Services invited two companies to campus and asked their respective representatives about their programs. The team ultimately decided on StarRez, an Australian software company based in Denver, that focuses primarily on housing and conferences services.

After receiving the go-ahead from the University, Apanel and Housing Services began their collaborative project.

“In September 2015, we started implementing the program. We met with StarRez on a weekly basis and figured out what processes we have here that they could make better,” Apanel said.

On April 19th, the program went live for the first time. Over the summer, all students who stayed on campus had their first interactions with the program, testing the check-in and check-out functionality and making sure to catch any potential bugs in the code. While it is still in its early stages, Apanel is excited to put power back into the hands of the students.

“Rather than have us work with the students without a housing assignment, they would be able to choose rooms on their own,” Apanel said.

The lottery system led to frustration across campus in the past. Each student in need of housing was given a lottery card in their campus mailbox, then divided based on class year and priority number. Students were then called to one centralized location, where they waited for their respective numbers to be called.

“The first groups of students went quickly. However, as soon as a student’s options were no longer available, they were forced to make something up on the fly or settle with a back-up plan,” Apanel said.

By creating a system that allows students to view all of the available rooms, Housing Services has allowed for students to make quick, informed decisions about where they want to live. The campus response to the new room selection tools has been overwhelmingly positive.

“I always felt like the current room selection process was very time-consuming. I’m so glad I won’t have to wait hours in the ELC Forum to get a room this year,” Quinn Smith ’19 said.

“The plan seems to alleviate the pains of the room selection process that we endured in previous years. Though it has yet to be tested out, all in all it seems that the process will be less stressful and more comprehensible,” Cyrus Namazi ’19 said.

“I am very optimistic about the new room selection process that Stephen proposed. I believe that housing is a big issue on campus, especially the problem of people not getting room assignments until just a few weeks before school starts. [T]he ‘shop and swap’ process … will allow students to have more control over the process. As someone who got assigned housing during the summer, I would have loved to have been able to be proactive about the situation,” Class of 2019 President Emily Shapiro said.

Overall, the implementation of StarRez has generated excitement across campus.

“There are a lot of details left to work out. But I am happy to see how the system progresses next semester. We feel like we’ve streamlined the process quite a bit,” Apanel said.

The finalized date for the program’s implementation will be made public near the end of January.

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