Pre-assignment applications rise more than 10 percent

May 2, 2013, 11:25 p.m.

The pre-assignment process received over 876 completed applications for the 2013-14 academic year, according to Zac Sargeant, Residential Education (ResEd)’s assistant director for operations.

This year’s total constitutes an increase of more than 10 percent over last year’s figure. Overall, 470 students were accepted to the 23 theme houses.

According to Sophie Meyer ’14, Synergy’s pre-assignment overseer, her house enjoyed a similar demand to last year.

“Most of the pre-assigners were freshmen and returners,” Meyer noted. “This is fairly equivalent to most other co-ops.”

Meyer added that Synergy’s staff felt like they were turning away too many current residents that they wished could have stayed.

“We could have staffed the whole house with qualified people,” Meyer said. “We had to decide which people we loved not to let in.”

Meyer complained, however, that the burden of selecting next year’s Synergy residents wasn’t evenly distributed.

“This year, it was primarily me meeting people who applied,” she said. “My staff was not as involved, so it ended up with me collecting impressions about the people and my other staff members not being as involved. In the past, we’ve tried to do it as a group.”

This year, Synergy chose people based on a lottery system in an effort to accelerate the process.

“We had a certain number of returner spots and freshmen spots and pooled those who didn’t get in into a general tier and drew from there,” Meyer said. “But it was really hard because we turned down people we loved. Some staff members had close friends that got turned down. I really wish we could have had more spots.”

Jan Barker-Alexander, one of Ujamaa’s two resident fellows, also said that her dorm was very popular this year.

“It was very competitive this year,” she commented. “We have a very robust intellectual community, and we’re not hurting for people to live in the dorm.”

In order to pre-assign to Ujamaa, students must write up a proposal for a presentation related to the African diaspora that they will present on during the year as part of the Ujamaa Scholars Program. Even with that obligation, Ujamaa continued to receive a high number of applicants comparable to past years.

Laura Cussen ’15 said that she pre-assigned to La Casa Italiana to take full advantage of the house’s community.

“I thought it was a good way, before the draw, to see if I could get somewhere that I really liked,” she said. “I wanted to try to reach first, and then if it didn’t work out, then I’d do the draw. I just wanted to increase my chances of getting somewhere cool.”

Cussen added that most pre-assignment options offered similarly strong communities.

“I’m definitely looking forward to the community next year,” Cussen said. “Having lived in relatively large dorms… my first two years, it’ll be nice to have that smaller group of people– you can start the year knowing that you’re going to know them relatively well by the end of the year. You don’t have to choose who you’re going to get to know.”

Cussen added that she is also interested in the cultural side of Casa Italiana as well.

“I kind of took a break from loving Italy for a few years, after I went abroad there in high school, and it will be really nice to indulge in another culture again,” she said.

Barker-Alexander emphasized that the pre-assignment process took place without any technical glitches.

“The process went smoothly,” she said. “ResEd was very supportive and helpful.”

However, some students reported problems with the website, citing confusion over whether interviews were required for all theme house applicants and where students could check the status of their application.

“Overall, I was happy with the experience, but I wish the website was clearer with instructions and about when we would be informed of the decision,” said Elena Leon ’14, who pre-assigned to Casa Italiana.

Josee Smith is a senior this year, majoring in anthropology with a minor in Spanish. She is the desk editor for the student groups beat and has spent her last 3 years at The Daily as both a staff writer and contributing writer. Originally from Washington State, Josee came to California for the warm weather and stayed for the awesome reporting. To contact her, please email jsmith11 'a'

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