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Student analysis, USG report say Room Draw 2020 is fair

Photo Credit: Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian
Photo Credit: Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

According to a report released by the USG Committee on Student Housing and independent statistical analysis conducted by Yang Song ’20, this year’s undergraduate room draw order was randomized properly.

“After Room Draw 2019, Housing implemented a new in-house randomization system that was conducted by Housing staff,” committee chair Sarah Lee ’22 wrote. “Utilizing the same battery of statistical tests as last year, the 2019 and 2020 room draw lists were analyzed to see if there was a correlation among the two lists and if group size impacted draw time. The analysis found that room draw times are fair for 2020.”

In 2019, room draw times were not properly randomized.

Last April, Director of Housing Dorian Johnson acknowledged that the randomization of times — a process Housing then outsourced to a software company called CBORD  — had malfunctioned. Students who received poor times as rising juniors were more likely to receive poor times as rising seniors.

Recognizing “similarities between the selection orders of the 2018 and 2019 upperclass draws,” the University deducted $1,000 from the housing fees of certain then-rising seniors who had been adversely impacted.   

In addition to this issue, according to analysis by Song and Adam Chang ’20, the 2019 draw was biased towards large draw groups and against smaller groups. 

However, according to Song’s analysis of 2020 draw times, these problems have been solved.

“I originally did not plan on analyzing this year’s Room Draw data, but due to many requests I decided to investigate and found that this year’s Room Draw resolved the problems associated with last year’s draw,” Song wrote.

In his analysis, Song plotted draw group size against draw time for the upperclass draw and noted that the plots appeared “much more uniformly distributed” than those from the 2019 data.

No draw group size had a statistically significant non-uniform distribution – meaning that, as Song explained, “we can statistically conclude that the draw times are unaffected by draw size.”

Box plot showing the distribution of draw times per group size.
Photo courtesy of Yang Song ’20

To address the other major student concern about room draw times, Song created scatter plots of draw times in 2019 and 2020, in which draw position in 2019 was plotted against draw position in 2020 for hundreds of individual students. The correlation between times was found to be near-zero, showing no statistical evidence that the 2019 draw influenced the 2020 draw.

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Song also compared between the different 2020 draws, such as upperclass and independent, and found that there was no longer a correlation between times in these different draws.

“Hence we can confirm the draw times are indeed randomized this year,” Song wrote.

These corrections come along with several other changes to Room Draw, including an extended-length timer for room selection, a new chat feature, and public access to a full list of available rooms and to information about the wait-list process.

In prior years, the time allotted to students to complete their specific room selection was five minutes in 2018, and eight minutes in 2019. This timer has been extended to 10 minutes for the Forbes, Mathey, Rockefeller, and Wilson College draws, with all other draws remaining at 8 minutes.

Additionally, the committee announced that there will be more time between draw groups.

According to the USG report, a full list of available rooms will be made available on the Housing website. As of Friday afternoon, this list has been published. Information about the wait-list process, for both residential college and upperclass draws, has also been released.

Confirmation emails of selected room assignments and meal plans will be sent daily during Room Draw to those who selected rooms that day.

The USG also noted that there will be a “chat feature” that will be available to all students. This, in addition to a Google Form, is intended to help USG “serve as liaisons between students and Housing” during the room draw process.

Aside from a previously-announced alteration to the Room Draw schedule, no specific changes have been made as a response to COVID-19-related disruptions.

“Room Draw has always been virtual, even on-campus, so Housing has not had to implement further changes to accommodate COVID-19 at this time,” the USG Committee on Student Housing wrote in their report.

“Housing will monitor the first few days of draw and re-evaluate if necessary,” they added.