Some lose big in the housing lotto

Sophomore Samantha Flanagan, University Affairs Chair, leads the SG meeting at which SG members invited any students to voice their opinion the recent housing issue in an attempt to find a resolution.
Sophomore Samantha Flanagan, University Affairs Chair, leads the SG meeting at which SG members invited any students to voice their opinion the recent housing issue in an attempt to find a resolution.

An e-mail sent by the Department of Residence Halls Monday morning confirmed that at the end of this semester, some UM students will have to say goodbye to on-campus housing whether they want to or not.

Due to the demand for on-campus housing, a lottery system had to be implemented. Students who opted in during the period between Feb. 5 and Feb. 19 were directed to myUM to find out whether they won the lottery or not. Those who won saw a page displaying the housing sign-up schedule, while those who were not as lucky were redirected to a page outlining off-campus options.

“The university promised us housing as long as we never moved off campus and tried to move back on,” sophomore Caleb Hirsch said. “We pay almost $40,000 a year to come here and now the university is forcing me to live off campus in expensive Coral Gables?”

Sophomore Justin Speier is one of the students who woke up Monday morning to sour news. He’s from Boca Raton and commuting from home is not really an option.

“It’s going to be hard finding [an apartment] for just a semester,” Speier said. “The reason I only have one semester is that I am considering studying abroad and from what I have seen, the majority of lease agreements are for 12 months; if I need a place for four months it would mean less options and an increased rate.”

A caveat in the e-mail also warned students that the final tally was not posted until right before the e-mail was sent out.

“At first myUM told me I had housing and then I checked [later] and I didn’t,” junior Sadia Chaudhry said. “I’m not going to be able to live with my friends my senior year of college. Instead of worrying about med schools and graduation and academics, I am now afraid I’m going to have to commute from my house or search for an apartment and have to drive to school.”

Shortly after the news, the group “Homeless UM Students 2010” was formed on Facebook. Only a few days after its creation, the group already boasts a membership of 308 and more than 75 unique posts.

According to Patricia A. Whitely, vice president for student affairs, the administration is aware that students are worried.

“We understand that this is a paradigm shift and that it’s stressful,” Whitely said. “We’ll work with everybody on an individual basis. We’re all working as much as we can.”

Whitely mentioned that students will be able to sign up for housing again after April 9, when she anticipates more housing will be available. With cancellations and lottery winners still opting to go off campus, Whitely believes that they’ll be “able to handle the bulk [of the waiting list] by June.”

During that time, priority will be given first to current on-campus residents who lost the lottery, followed by continuing students who have lived off campus and want to come back and third, to transfer students.

“What is ridiculous is that I know some people who [won] the lottery and they are from Miami, maybe like 30 minutes away. Is that right?” transfer student sophomore Alexandra Mahjouri said. “I say housing should at least give priority to international/non-Miami area students.”

According to Whitely and Gilberto Arias, assistant vice president for student affairs, UM was one of the few universities who hadn’t implemented a lottery system for housing. Arias said that the University of Florida and Florida State University both have a lottery system in place, while at Boston College, which Whitely cited, students are told in advance that they will not be allowed to live on campus their junior year.

“It was the most affordable way we had to assign housing,” Arias said.

When questioned, department of resident halls director Jim Smart declined to comment on the housing situation.

Another problem many students now face is that while they may have won the lottery, their roommates did not.

“I made the lottery for the UV but my roommate did not. What is the point of granting it to someone without considering who they might be planning to live with?” sophomore Arielle Andreano said. “According to Whitely, letting lottery winners “pull in” their roommates as they had been able to do in the past was not an option.

“It would’ve skewed the numbers,” she said.

Yet another large number of students are those who pay for on-campus housing with scholarship money which either will not let them use the money to pay for an off-campus apartment or will not give them enough to afford one.

“What the university failed to recognize is that by putting everyone at equal odds in a lottery, it directly hurts those like myself who are here on scholarships and can’t afford housing in this area,” sophomore Austen Gregerson said. “…before people who are financially capable of finding cheaper housing off-campus or people who already live in Miami are offered housing, those incapable of attending here without [financial] help should have gotten some sort of priority.”

A consensus among students seems to be that closing the entire apartment area and moving Stanford and Hecht to freshmen-only at the same time was a mistake.

“This was poorly handled by the administration,” Hirsch said. “They should have closed one-fifth of the apartments or one-fourth of the apartments. Not the entire section and force about 200 students out of housing.”

Lila Albizu may be contacted at


–          2824 students applied

  • 2382 (84%) were selected by the lottery
  • 442 (16%) were not selected by the lottery