Since 2011, Occidental students have biennially voted on Residential Education and Housing Services (REHS)’s room draw policy. This year, in the Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC) Senate election Feb. 3 to Feb. 10, students had the opportunity to vote between two options: room draw by seniority or room draw allocating one-third of each upperclassmen residence hall to sophomores, juniors and seniors. Disregarding either option, REHS announced Feb 9. via email a new room draw policy — not included on the ballot — which comprised of a single lottery system for all upperclassmen.
Last Friday, ASOC released a formal statement calling on REHS to either implement the room draw policy students voted for or hold a new vote. Additionally, the statement called for a town hall meeting with REHS hosted by ASOC and a commitment by REHS to better meet the needs of students.
According to ASOC President Paul Charbonneau (sophomore), Assistant Director of REHS Laura McNaughton emailed him Oct. 31 to request that ASOC members hold the vote on the room draw policy. Charbonneau agreed to place REHS’s options on the ballot, which were sent to him Feb. 1.
REHS sent Charbonneau two options Feb. 1. The first option was room draw by seniority, giving rising seniors first choice. The second option was the one-third process, meaning one-third of each residence hall would be reserved for each class.
The polls opened Feb. 2 and were originally scheduled to close Feb. 3. However, Charbonneau decided to extend the voting period to Feb. 10 due to ASOC Senate pushing its retreat back from Feb. 4 to Feb. 11.
Feb. 9, six days after the polls were initially supposed to close, Charbonneau received another email from McNaughton. In her email, McNaughton wrote that the room draw policy options needed to be removed from the ballot. Charbonneau declined to comply.
“Aside from the fact that it would be mechanically impossible to remove a ballot option one day before voting ended from the live ballot, [Charbonneau] felt that it was ethically dishonest to remove student voting power without any justification,” the ASOC statement emailed to students Friday said.
Amy Pino (junior) sent an email at 1:58 p.m. Feb. 10 on behalf of ASOC announcing the election results. The outcome of the room draw policy vote was not disclosed. At that time, Charbonneau was still trying to get into contact with REHS in order to understand why they were enacting a new policy.
Roughly two hours later, REHS sent out an email to students outlining the new room draw policy. It stated that every student would be assigned a random room draw number, regardless of seniority.
Students did not have the option to vote for this policy. The results of the ASOC election were 324 votes for the option in favor of seniority and 135 votes for the one-third option, according to ASOC’s statement.
The statement also contained an account of Charbonneau’s meeting last Thursday with REHS Associate Director Monique Hankerson, who said the new policy would be easier for new staff members, who had not been through the room draw process before, to manage.
“[REHS] conveyed that they would rather run an easier room draw system that students were unhappy with well than run a system that students chose poorly,” the statement said.
Isaac Glanzrock (senior), who was a residential advisor (RA) for two years, was not surprised at REHS’s decision to unilaterally implement a new room draw policy.
“The way I see it, this system makes it easier for the housing department when it comes to assigning room draw numbers — just randomize the entire student body and assign each one a number,” Glanzrock said. “Is it fair to the students at Occidental, who have historically voted on room draw policy every two years? Absolutely not.”
When asked what REHS’s response to students arguing that they undermined the democratic precedent would be, Hankerson declined to comment.
“I was hopeful [REHS] was beginning to take in and listen to student voices,” Charbonneau said via email. “But seeing them ignore our voices makes me feel like they have taken several steps backward.”