Phillipian Commentary: Embrace the Housing System

R. Holtmaier

Andover is just a boarding school. Thus, each year, the issue of the housing system plagues dorms (you day students have one less thing to worry about). Boarders must find a way to rise above the housing system and maintain control, steadiness, and “big-picture” thinking in perhaps the most tumultuous time of the school year. Without these traits, you may be looking at distractions far worse than just the proposition of a tiny room.

It is already late April, and the school is scrambling to prepare for the influx of over 350 new students next fall. However, before any of that can happen, they must place all returning boarders into rooms. The housing process is a blessed curse. The newfound sense of excitement and anticipation is almost palpable. It’s the opportunity for a new roommate, larger room, or even a spot as a proctor! However, the housing process also presents immense pressures and distractions[a]. Many students are being forced out of dorms that are being stacked or switched. Others are applying for positions of prefect and proctor, applications that come with written essays, interviews, and countless emails sent back and forth. And of course, the dreaded All-School Lottery has already commenced. Its varying and tempting number scale is always bound to cause widespread stress and worry, instilling massive distractions each and every day until May 7.

As a returning Lower, that All-School Lottery was the only aspect of the housing lottery I had access to. It was straightforward, simple, and although I wasn’t able to receive the highest number that year, I got placed in the charming Fuess House, a dorm I have come to love and cherish. However, for rising Uppers, the process is slightly more complicated. I can say that with certainty, after having applied for prefect, considered a stack twice, and made an intra-cluster move and a pull-in. My Spring Term, like many others, has been dominated by the housing system, having sent a multitude of emails and having visited endless dorms. Maybe it’s just the nature of my friend group, but I can certainly attest that students at Andover care a lot about their housing situations.

The housing system, in its most basic sense, is meant to place students into rooms for the 2019-2020 school year. However, considering that over 75 percent of the school lives in campus dormitories, the process has become so much more than just an Excel spreadsheet. Students care.[b] They want that elusive three-room double, that enormous single, or maybe just a quiet, cozy sanctuary hidden in the cottages of WQN. And many are able to achieve that. Nevertheless, students must learn to adapt and rise above the tension and stress of the housing system.

After receiving the 45000 lottery number on that fateful Sunday night last year, I wasn’t able to focus on many of my academic assignments for the next two weeks. Was it a 1-10000 number scale? Were higher numbers better? Nevertheless, when I first received the notification that I had been placed into Fuess House, it was quite the shock. Again, after going through the prefect, stack, and intracluster processes, I was unable to keep my attention on the other components of the Andover experience. It was a mixture of disappointment, ecstasy, and utter exhaustion. And I’ve only completed part of the housing system. As of this writing, a major portion of the student body is waiting for their final housing placements via the housing lottery, constantly pondering the implications of that 11000 or 95000 lottery number. That process is exciting and fun at times, but we must remember to never lose sight of the true Andover experience full of rigorous and challenging classes, exceptional opportunities in various fields, and a unified and bonded community.

It is up to all of us to not only embrace the housing system but also rise above it. For it is only then that we can love where we will live, the communities that we will join, and the passionate people who we will continue to be.