Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Mad as hell: distilling the illusion of the beneficent, "second-to-none" iHousing system

Today is not exactly a great day. I'm sick, but more importantly, I'm angry at the University (surprisingly this hasn't become the normal status quo yet, I know).

In any case, I'm not sure as to how the racket at John Quincy Adams House operates, but I can sure tell you that I'm no fan of the iHousing process.

Regarding the process, GW offers a posturing, perfectly crafted public statement that is more at odds with reality than some of the statements recently uttered by our current President:
In our first year, 80% of students were assigned to one of their top three preferences and the process has made students' housing assignments easier, more flexible, and more individualized. GW's campus housing experience is second to none, contributing to overall student success, permitting greater opportunities for campus involvement, and offering safe and convenient services to residents.
First things first, let's note that the iHousing statement is on a different web site entirely from the Living@GW site, underscoring the utter mess of the entire department.

Now onto their asinine claims. Let's begin with the math.

I believe that the 80% figure is true, but I believe that that is by no means impressive. They have not even bothered to identify a base figure for the 80%, and so that leaves me to conjecture. But I will make an educated guess and say that it is based on the number of undergraduates who enrolled for the 2006-2007 academic year on all of the campuses (Foggy Bottom, Mount Vernon, Virginia). That figure is 10,032 according to the factsheet from GW's Office of Institutional Research. Understand that that number is essentially the amount of people who are currently sophomores on campus (it does NOT simply mean "all enrolled undergraduates"; rather, it means "those undergraduates that enrolled in the University beginning in Fall 2006).

So with that we can do some simple mathematical manipulations and figure out that if iHousing satisfied 80% of that population, then it also left some 2,006 people unhappy. That's two-thousand-and-six. How ironic! The number of people left out by the iHousing process in that year corresponds to the year of their enrollment. Perhaps that is an omen signaling that that figure will continue to grow.

Secondly, GW Housing really needs to get over this idea that "GW's campus housing experience is second to none, contributing to overall student success..." -- and what do they even mean by this exactly? What kind of success? Academic, personal, professional, what?

Let's contrast their lofty, highfalutin language with some that I found from a pretty reliable source: the Facebook status box.
Friend #1: is reaaally mad about FULBRIGHT...akh... (25 minutes ago)

Friend #2: 2109 F Street...? (46 minutes ago)

Friend #3: is pretty sure ihousing can go die now. (2 hours ago)

Friend #4:
is pissed as hell that he's stuck in Potomac next year. (3 hours ago)

Friend #5:
is homeless for next year, yet somehow still has more pressing issues consuming her time to even care! CHEERS!! (3 hours ago)

Friend #6:
is WTF? WAITLIST?? Fuck you housing, we didn't get a dorm. Don't complain that you didn't get your top pick. (3 hours ago)

Friend #7:
got screwed by housing. (5 hours ago)

Friend #8:
is um ok wait no. Potomac House?! (5 hours ago)
Need I continue? Well, there is just one more, this time from a graduate student that I work with expressing his sentiments on the issue:
Colleague #1: is happy that he is not dealing with GW Housing like everyone else right now. (1 hour ago)
Looks like we're starting to see the iHousing fountain start to dole out discontent, dismay, and in some cases, possibly even distress.

In mine, it's somewhere between dismay and distress since I am fall into last year's 20% (which should theoretically remain at 20% this year if they have not changed their metrics since the number of enrolled students this year has only dropped by 174, and trust me, they have not changed their metrics given their buoyant and overflowing self-aggrandizement).

My top 7 preferences did not include 2109 F Street, but I suppose that that's perfectly acceptable to the folks over at JQA House.

Amazingly, more confusion ensued in my case. After receiving my assignment email (timestamped 8:06 AM), I received another one saying that I was on the waitlist but assuring me that I had no need to worry (timestamped 8:25 AM). In this email, some lovely representative of this most disorganized office wrote:
As a rising second-year student you are guaranteed housing and will be assigned to housing.
According to this I am now allowed to preference certain senior and junior housing options in my application...but I thought I already received an assignment (albeit an unsatisfactory one). So am I on the waitlist because my assignment was not in comportment with my preferences, or did they email me erroneously, or what?

To (hopefully) receive answers to these questions, I'm going to be visiting the wonderful JQA House (located next to Rice Hall, how fitting!) after my class ends today at 5pm (lucky for me that the housing office is open until 5:30). Updates to this will follow.

And for now, I will offer an explicit call to action: I would ask that everyone dissatisfied and upset with the way that the iHousing process has treated them email Seth Weinshel, director of assignments for GW Housing Programs and voice your grievances. I would advise against expecting a lengthy or well-thought out reply since I got an off-the-cuff and seemingly harried response when I emailed him for a Hatchet story I was researching. But this is not just me, as you can tell from the numbers and the real-time Facebook responses. So let's mount a campaign to get GW to conduct a comprehensive review of iHousing and to address the needs of students whose preferences have been totally neglected.

UPDATE: I visited GW Housing Programs today at 5:10pm to find that the second email was in fact erroneous. I was told that it should not have happened and to just disregard it. 

In other words, I'm just stuck with this now. *Sigh*. 


BasilQHJ said...

I understand why you are pissed. I mean Fulbright is not that bad, you do get kitchens.

However, let me tell you that compared to the other way GW had assignments for housing was CRAP.

My freshmen year, my friends and I got together and figured it all out, but we all had kind of bad numbers, WHICH were assigned COMPLETELY randomly.

So we all sat and watched while all the quads on campus disappeared, then all the triples, doubles, etc. Unitl there were literally no rooms except Mitchell left.

iHousing may not be perfect, but in my opinion it is ten times better than stressing out watching dorms disappear.

Anonymous said...

My man, you're a freshman. Nobody gives a f**k what you think. You are a peon. Suck it up and stop whining. It's a good life lesson.

Anonymous said...

Freshmen deserve good housing too!

Max McGowen said...

In response to the first anonymous poster:

Being a freshman is irrelevant to the argument - I am saying that everyone deserves fair and equal housing and certainly not what the iHousing system provides (as it leaves the 20% gap without a second thought). Plus, I am technically a "rising sophomore" - if it was not clear, this application that I filed is for a continuing student in the 2008-2009 academic year. Currently I am a freshman, and I'm not complaining about my current assignment (although it would be legitimate if I wanted to).

I think people do "give a f**k" what I think and I think that for you to stifle their voices would be reprehensible. You're operating on a personal opinion that you cannot back up - you have not provided me with any evidence that I will naturally go without support because of my status as a first-year student. And even if I had to go without support, I would still keep going.

A life lesson? Hardly - I think the lesson here is people like yourself who really believe that they can tell everyone else what to think and how to behave. Systematizing life, I think, is bad in general, and that's what you are doing by assigning people into categories that you view as unfavorable. You believe that by doing so your argument is made more valid, but quite the contrary-- your statement will always be a non sequitur.

Anonymous said...

My bro, being a freshman is very relevant to the argument. You're the bottom of the barrel. You have to pay your dues. I know it is hard to fathom, but the world doesn't revolve around you. You'll learn once you get out of college and get your ass kicked in the business world. So I applaud GW for teaching you invaluable life lessons, such as when you're a freshman/rookie/new guy whatever (and don't give me this rising sophomore bullshit you still have finished your freshman year) you have to pay your dues, not everthing is handed to you. Pussy.

anony-hater said...

Anonymous- your use of profanity is unwarranted and takes away from what could be a productive debate. While "your bro," Max might be a tad over the top when discussing your argument, you should not feel the need to stoop to such a level as indignant name calling.

goodnight and have a pleasant tomorrow.

quest 4 a home said...

If you're so high and mighty, where did you live freshman year? What was your housing arrangement?

Max McGowen said...

Again, to the first anonymous poster:

Hahaha, I really love how you first assume that I don't know anything and that I'm ignorant simply because I'm a freshman (or as you would erroneously call it, a "rookie"). I understand that the system isn't biased in my favor and once again, I'm not advocating that it should be - all I'm saying is that the 80% figure is unacceptable and GW Housing should strive to make it as close to 100% as they possibly can and not settle for something subpar.

You also assume that I think that the world revolves around me, and I hardly think that, and I'm not going to go into a discussion of how I'd prove this point because I don't think you're poised to accept any evidence since you've prejudged me (without meeting me) as someone who feels self-important.

"you're a freshman/rookie/new guy whatever (and don't give me this rising sophomore bullshit you still have finished your freshman year"

^ I think that in your illogical rambling you meant to say that I still have not finished my freshman year - can you at least get your grammar right? Someone isn't thinking about what he is saying (how surprising).

Also don't assume that I'm going into the business world of which you speak.

And yes, your use of labels like pussy really does show that you are the one who is in fact insecure. I don't think that there's much room to debate that. It's an obsolete male impulse from hundreds of thousands of years ago, to quote a favorite comic of mine.


Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with the seniority argument (however ineloquently it was phrased here). . .everyone at GW pays their dues in terms of housing (whether it's getting stuck on the vern or in a tiny room in fullbright or with no kitchen in potomac). Whining won't help this situation (although repeated phone calls from angry parents to GW Housing might)-----plus, it will make upperclassman housing all the sweeter your next two years.

Max McGowen said...

Well if that really is the situation I do consider myself lucky insofar since the "dues" that I've supposedly "paid" are not that much: I live in a Thurston quad that, despite its tiny size and little moving room, is actually quite livable.

But I want to make it clear that I'm not issuing just a "whine"--that would be counterproductive. I'm issuing a call for change in a system that I believe falls short.

And I see your point, but I'm not sure that I would jump to saying that everyone in their upperclassmen housing is perfectly happy as well. While I'm sure the benefits are numerous and the situation is just an overall better one, I wouldn't say that assume that everyone goes through the "oh it's bad freshman year but it's inevitably better later" process.

BasilQHJ said...

Max, I agree the system has flaws, but there is NO real way to make EVERY student happy. Some students will get stuck in the crappier dorms. The new system took that precentage of unhappy students WAY down and that is why it is better. There really is no way to make 100 percent of the GW population happy...

Max McGowen said...

I can agree with that. I guess that my only comment is that I would wish that it'd be higher than 80% - I know that asking for 100% is unrealistic. But just remember that the 20% left out literally represents 2,000 people.

Anonymous said...


yeah, the world should revolve around me, and i should get everything handed to me...

if i'm paying the same amount of money for it that a sophomore or junior is, which i am.

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