The How and Why of the Housing Lottery

By Liz Logie P’10,’13; New Canaan, CT

Springtime at Deerfield inspires the students to begin looking forward: to that first trip to the river on a sunny afternoon, to wins on the lacrosse field and the final dance performance, to graduation day for seniors and for everybody else … EEK … THE HOUSING PROCESS!

Parents will no doubt hear a great deal about this from their children in the coming weeks, so, with the help of Dean of Students Toby Emerson, we thought it would be helpful to give all of you a full description of the process. 

Most, but not all, students choose to sign up with a housing partner.  All housing partners are guaranteed that they will be together. During the third week in May each student goes to the Dean’s Office to fill out a Housing Form and selects two numbered tiles, with the lowest number being recorded on the Housing Form as that student’s housing lottery number.  Students complete the Housing Form with the name of their housing partner and a list of their top choices for dormitories and corridors. The form also allows students to include a list of other students with whom they would like to live.

During the last week of May, the deans begin the hard work of assigning students housing. Beginning with rising seniors, the deans work in ascending order through the lottery numbers and dormitory/corridor requests until all students have been assigned.  (An exception is made for students who were forced into doubles this year and thus have requested “compensation” in the form of either first choice in the lottery or an additional housing partner.)

BUT … that is not all there is to it!  While the lottery system described above provides a “framework,” in practice the process has evolved into what the Dean’s Office calls a “hybrid.” The deans strongly consider the lottery framework but remain mindful of avoiding the kind of homogeneity on hallways that has occurred in the past when the process was guided strictly by either student requests or the chance of the lottery system. The process also espouses the Academy’s mission, which includes exposing students to new friends with new perspectives.  Students might feel some temporary angst if a friend ends up in a different dorm or corridor, however it quickly passes with the expansion of their friend group. And there is no better place for this to happen than in the dorms. According to Toby Emerson, the deans “strive to create corridors that mirror the diversity we have at Deerfield Academy.”

The process continues through the summer as the deans assign new students to their dorms and accommodate any last-minute changes. The housing assignments will be published in August.

There will always be a few grumbles and not every student will get his or her dream room or nirvana corridor.  That being said, Mr. Emerson reported that the deans “felt pretty good about” how the system worked last year.  In anticipation of this article, he asked one of his classes what they thought of last year’s process and the response of the students was “best we could do given the need to create diverse halls.”

Again, you will be hearing quite a bit from your children over the coming weeks as they plan for their new “home away from home” next year. The Dean’s Office makes every effort to satisfy the needs of all students as well as those of the Academy.

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