With new technology, there are always kinks to be worked out. This was no exception for Vassar’s new online housing system, Residence by Symplicity.
Used for winter and spring break housing applications previously, this year’s housing and apartment draw was the first time many students interacted with the software.
Providing both benefits and frustrations, Vassar students had mixed feelings on this new software.
Using a program created by Symplicity software isn’t something new for Vassar. Currently, the Career and Development Office (CDO) utilizes Career Services Manager (CSM), to host VCLink, an internship database for Vassar students and alumnae/i. Residence was chosen by ResLife after much consideration.
Residence by Symplicity offers new online features. Students now have the option to design their own online profile, as well as search for housemates based on their answers.
Another feature available is the ability to apply for break or commencement housing or to live off campus.
Information available on Residence allows one to check their current and future living arrangements, as well as view their meal plan.
The software lets students access a variety of information in a central location.
Director of Residential Life Luis Inoa explained the decision to use the software.
He wrote in an emailed statement, “We were working with CIS for a number of years on finding the right software. Symplicity offered the kind of flexibility we were looking for, in addition to being web based and affordable.”
One benefit to online apartment draw is the convenience of the system. For students abroad, this feature has allowed them to participate with relative ease. This has been a concern in the past for those studying away from Vassar, who have felt like they were out of the loop.
Mariah Carlson-Kirigin ‘15 said, “I really liked that it was online, because that makes it easier to participate from Ireland.”
Another positive pointed out by current juniors has been the avoidance of the issues associated with the old housing draw. By not conducting the draw in person, the process was much calmer for some.
“I also liked that there was only one person every 15 minutes, so it didn’t feel like as much of a race as room draw can seem,” Carlson-Kirigin added.
Louis Cheng ’15 agreed. “I think doing it online is good in some ways, as I didn’t need to deal with the psychological pressure to rush the selection because of seeing people physically lining up after me,” he said.
For ResLife, Residence has made their jobs easier and they believe that Symplicity will make it easier for students as well.
However, the office did encounter a few challenges in its transition to the new software.
He wrote, “This has been tough at times but thankfully, I have a great group of professional team members.”
Inoa continued, “On our end, the inputting of room assignments has been made easier. On the students’ end, they have the ability to select a room wherever they are: abroad, at work, in their room or at the gym. As long as they can log in, they will be able to select.”
While the new system provided clarity for some, it posed problems for others. Issues from incorrect draw numbers to inconvenient timing arose for many students. Since apartment draw this year ran from 1:45-8:45 p.m., one student said he had to choose between class and housing selection.
“I think ResLife is abusing the convenience factor of the online system, and they made nonsensical decisions as a result of this,” expressed Cheng, who decided to miss class in order to participate, as none of his other group members were available at that time, either.
Cheng continued, “I have actually emailed ResLife about this issue, and they responded by saying that I could find a proxy to carry out the selection process. But of course, I didn’t do it as it is quite an important task and I would much prefer it be done by me or my group mates.”
Other issues, not connected to Residence itself, arose this year; incorrect draw numbers were one of them.
“My group of 5 seniors (none of whom had been on probation) was given a time slot on the last day of room draw, which would have given us a very small selection of THs to choose between. From talking to other groups, we learned that there seemed to be at least one other group that included a junior with a better time slot than we did,” stated Katie Marie Hollis ’15 in an emailed statement. Her problem was solved the morning of housing draw.
ResLife worked to deal with student concerns and complaints throughout the process, inviting students to meet with them personally, call or email. On the days of housing draw, a hotline was set up to answer any questions.
During apartment draw, Assistant Director of Residential Life/Student Conduct & Housing Kelly Grab and Assistant Director of Residential Life/ First Year Programs Diane Eshelman fielded students’ queries.
Grab wrote in an emailed statement, “I will say that I do not believe [Eshelman] and I have received any complaints thus far; clarifying questions, yes, but not complaints. We have both put in a lot of time responding to those questions as soon as humanly possible and are using them to help inform our process for next year.”
According to Inoa, negative reaction to apartment draw has focused on issues other than the software.
“In all honesty, when we do get complaints, they are not about the software but about the house/seniority based system,” wrote Inoa. “There are limitations with doing draw the way that we do it, but it maintains the house system and any changes to that would draw far more complaints.”
Apartment draw has now finished, and seniors have now chosen where they will live next year. There has not been an announcement as to whether Residence will be used for dormitory room draw.
Said Hollis, “I suppose I would say that overall I like the new system. It made it pretty easy to keep track of which apartments were still available and my group’s issue, at least, was worked out positively. I do wonder, however, if there were any other groups in a similar situation who did not get sorted out.”