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Annual room picks can cause drama in dorms

Analise Lipari | Thursday, April 12, 2007

Each spring, there comes a series of notable signs that the seasons are changing. The bunker-sized piles of snow (usually) melt, and the DuLac-protected tulips emerge from their earthen beds, fresh and ready to greet the populace.

The ducks tend to congregate in anything from the lakes to an oversized puddle. Even the students, with their now-ungodly pale complexions and winter-induced light sensitivity, leave their former states of hibernation and burst out onto the sunlit quads.

One not-so-natural sign of spring, however, lurks ominously behind these cheerful reminders of seasonal shifting on campus. It’s not the reappearance of meat on Fridays at the dining halls, nor is it the proliferation of cornhole, Frisbee and other outdoor games. No, this demon is more terrifying than anything that either man or beast could dream up.

Two words: room picks.

For those of you who might be freshmen and have yet to experience this lovely phenomenon, let me enlighten you. Or, rather, let me give you a well-intentioned warning, so as to make sure you avoid killing someone during this process. Because it will, undoubtedly, make you want to shoot/strangle/poison/other-variation-of-maim your friends and neighbors, especially if they take the sweet, sweet room that you desire.

Room picks – that delightful time of devious plotting, disappointments and occasional tears – is not meant for the faint of heart. As one might surmise, the academic year coming to a close means that your average Domer guy or gal must ensure that they do, in fact, have a place to live come fall semester. In order to fill this need, dorms individually hold their own versions of the room picking process, involving lottery numbers and oh-so-dramatic periods of selection.

“Dramatic?” you ask incredulously. “It’s just a room … right?”

Oh, you na’ve little buggers. How I wish it were “just a room.” It’s more than a room – it’s an uncomfortably personal jungle of competing wants, needs and facilities. Do you want a single? Good luck finding one! Do you want a double? Make sure that who you plan on rooming with does, in fact, want to room with you (an underestimated part of the equation).

Triple? Quad? Eight-man? Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, and make your arrangements in advance – otherwise, you may end up living in a tent in the middle of South Quad.

My own beloved home, Howard Hall, gives the process an interesting twist. Having received their lottery numbers, each Duck has the opportunity to place a matching magnet on a white board of the dorm’s available rooms to denote each resident’s desired room. During the course of the 24-hour room pick period, however, anyone with a better number has the option of literally removing your magnet from its resting place and replacing it with her own. Again, it’s an awkwardly personal process.

Some students choose to avoid the process entirely by moving off campus for their junior or senior year. A house or apartment is inevitably much bigger than a dorm room, plus, you get to cook for yourself. However, you also have to clean, pay bills and find transportation to and from campus.

And who wants to act like a real live adult before it’s absolutely necessary? Not me.

Personally, I prefer the room pick drama. Not while it’s actually happening, of course – especially if my lottery number isn’t exactly ideal.

But afterward, once my room is secure, I can sit back with a bowl of popcorn to watch the underclassmen go through the same thing. It’s just another sign that spring has sprung again.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.