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Room draw is unclear and its punishments too harsh

forbes outside Abby de Riel DP (9).JPG
Abby De Riel / The Daily Princetonian

Last week brought warm weather and an explosion of flowers at Princeton. However, the hottest topic of conversation was not the seasonal shift. Instead, since mid-March, much of the student body’s attention was focused on room draw: the stressful and complex process where rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors pick their room for the upcoming year. Room draw is opaque, and the University has not provided enough reminders — nor adequate and accessible guidance about the process — especially about the group-selection aspect.

The room draw process seems intentionally nebulous. It lacks an easy, thorough explainer guide, leaving myriad unanswered questions for students, especially first-years going through the process for the first time. Is there an advantage to drawing with a group? Are there drawbacks? Is a draw group’s time determined as a group or by the best draw time among its individual members? If one or more members of a group fail to accept a draw group’s invitation, does everyone else need to form a new group? Are draw times really random


The University provides an online guide that unfortunately doesn’t satisfactorily answer any of these questions. For example, neither the “Apply as a Group” nor “Apply as an Individual” sections of the guide cover the possible advantages or drawbacks of either. Further, the “Post Room Draw” section of the guide is not clear on how students on the waitlist are assigned to their rooms. In fact, it appears incomplete, saying, “Sophomore wait listed students will be assigned to their Residential Colleges by (TBA).”

Another avenue for answering questions, the residential college room draw Q&A sessions are often inconvenient to attend because of class and extracurricular commitments. There seems to be, then, no broadly communicated way to access necessary room draw information.

And not understanding the process comes with high penalties. For example, if one member of a draw group forgets to submit their application on time, every group member is then ineligible for regular room draw. Depending on the size of the group, this could put one to seven other people’s housing up in the air because of the innocent mistake of just one person. This is an easy mistake to make — no reminder emails were sent out by Housing at any time between the announcement that the regular room draw application had opened and the day it closed. Princeton Housing’s policy of invalidating every member of a draw group’s applications when one member fails to apply by the deadline feels like a disproportionate punishment for an understandable oversight.

Currently, individual residential colleges seem to be responsible for reminding their respective students about the draw deadline. Mathey students received a second heads-up, for example, while Forbes residents did not. While most of us do our best to stay on top of our emails, it would not have been entirely impossible to miss that first email and subsequently, the deadline. 

Princeton can do much better in sending reminders about deadlines and applications, including those for accessible housing and other accomodations. This is an easy fix that the University should implement when it comes to the general room draw.

But no amount of reminders can make someone fill out a form, and no draw group can force one of its members to do it either. As adults, we should be held responsible for our own behavior — not the behavior of those in our draw group. People who have abided by the rules of room draw and turned forms in on time should not be left up the creek without a paddle because someone else made an individual oversight. It should not be on the draw group to bear the consequences of one person’s honest mistake and it is disappointing that the rest of the group is left floundering, not knowing if they will be able to live with their preferred roommates at all. 


After the normal room draw period, the process becomes even more opaque: anyone who missed the deadline — and every one of their group members who may have submitted on time – is left to apply for the waitlist, which involves being randomly assigned to one of the rooms left over after everyone has picked theirs during the standard draw time. But it is unclear who makes these assignments: maybe Housing, or a student’s Dean of Student Life (DSL)? I met with both a representative from Housing and my own DSL for a personal room draw issue, and it was still unclear who was actually in charge of placing students in rooms off of the waiting list. 

Housing should send more reminder emails, publish a more thorough set of answers to possible questions, and include the consequences of failing to apply on time. Princeton should also change the way they punish groups that do miss the deadline to avoid distressing situations like the one many students have found themselves in this year. The consequence from the University ought to match the mistake — and one person’s lapse of memory should not mean months of anxiety for an entire group of students.

Contributing Columnist Anna Ferris is a freshman from Pittsburgh, Pa. who intends to concentrate in English. She can be reached at

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