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Housing draw to be phased out, students to be assigned to ‘neighborhoods’ instead, ResX report announces

Following year of research, Provost approves task force’s recommendations

By , , and

The elimination of The Draw and the creation of residential neighborhoods — to which all undergraduates will be assigned before their first year on campus — will characterize the changes revolutionizing residential life at Stanford over the next quarter-century, according to recommendations released by the ResX task force on Tuesday.

Campus will be divided into 10 to 14 neighborhoods that group together existing dorm communities, giving them shared “facilities for learning, arts, recreation and dining.” Students will be “citizens” of these individual clusters for four years. Self-ops, co-ops, and Greek and Row houses will be subsumed into neighborhoods, along with ethnic theme dorms and other themed housing.

Incoming frosh will be automatically assigned to all-frosh dorms unless they apply to live in a University Theme House (UTH) — including SLE, ITALIC, FroSoCo and the frosh-friendly ethnic theme houses. There will be no more than one UTH housing frosh in each neighborhood, and they will be located near their respective neighborhoods’ all-frosh dorms “where possible,” the report recommends.

The report further suggested that Stanford limit students to only one year in a given UTH. Students will no longer be able to draw into UTHs — which include themed upper-class Row houses — and will instead be exclusively required to pre-assign.

In lieu of The Draw, there will be a separate lotteries among the members of each class in each neighborhood, with seniors choosing first, then juniors and finally sophomores. Students who choose to relocate to a different neighborhood will be relegated to the “lowest priority” after members of their class when receiving their housing assignment. Students with “approved concerns” such as Title IX issues will have the option to transfer neighborhoods without penalty through a separate process.

“The system should encourage, but not require, students to stay within their neighborhood,” the report added.

Existing “less desirable” dorms such as those with one-room doubles will be converted to all-frosh residences to maintain consistency with the neighborhood model, as part of a new housing assignment process where the order in which students select housing arrangements is determined by class seniority rather than selected tier.

The changes follow a year of research and deliberation conducted by the ResX task force, convened by Provost Persis Drell to re-envision Stanford’s residential system as part of the University’s Long-Range Planning process. The task force completed its recommendations on Dec. 21, 2018, and co-chairs Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Harry Elam presented the report to the Board of Trustees on April 9.

Neighborhoods

The proposed neighborhoods would be four-class and consist of 700 students, 200 of whom will live in UTHs. Each neighborhood will include all-frosh dorms composed of no more than 80 students each and a Resident Fellow, as well as upper-class residences housing no more than 125 people each, and one co-op. Since there are only seven co-ops on campus, some neighborhoods will share a co-op.

Each incoming student will be individually assigned to a single neighborhood, and each neighborhood will house 160 to 200 frosh. Roommate assignment will no longer be conducted by students, and will instead be in the hands of University administrators.

A proposed neighborhood map included two all-frosh dorms, two upperclass dorms, one UTH and three upperclass independent living (self-op or apartment style) residences.

“Each neighborhood will foster continuity during students’ four years at Stanford, allowing them to deepen friendships and enrich relationships,” the report reads.

To maintain “the quirky nature that makes Stanford, Stanford,” the report recommends that neighborhoods develop their own individual character.

Residents of a given neighborhood will have access to a community commons, a central dining area and food service and a place to pick up package deliveries. The community commons will also include a cafe or student-run grill or store, while each house will have its own dining area. The commons will also contain spaces for meetings and social events.

“Students from all neighborhoods should be on equal footing in accessing the opportunity to live in a UTH.” “Priority will be determined by academic class (entering cohort year) and their applications to the theme houses.”

In addition to themed houses, students will be able to design “Neighborhood Theme Houses,” (NTHs) centered around “student creativity and interest.” Rather than retaining their theme from year to year, students can modify the themes of NTHs in consultation with their Resident Fellows.

The report adds that in the “long term,” new neighborhoods would be built with “Row-type” houses as well as independent or apartment style complexes.

The Neighborhood Community Council (NCC), a body independent of the individual neighborhoods, will conduct annual review to ensure each UTH’s “mission remains relevant and in line with the neighborhood’s goals.” UTH residences housing frosh will also be evaluated on whether they “are providing adequate and directed programming and resources that support frosh transitions.”

Tradeoffs and rationale

In endorsing the replacement of The Draw with the neighborhood system, ResX cited evidence that the current “level of choice had significant costs.” A 2016 Residential Programs survey found that many frosh who were not placed in all-frosh housing felt that they had missed out on the Stanford experience. Upper-class students also expressed regret over housing’s effect on dismantling friend groups — especially during the transition from freshman year to sophomore year — and general dissatisfaction with the randomness of the Draw given varying quality in housing stock.

As evidence that reducing choice by switching to a neighborhood proposal might not be a negative outcome, ResX cited visits to peer institutions with similar housing systems. The all-frosh housing plan for every incoming first-year, for example, was inspired by Harvard where all freshmen live in Harvard Yard. The report also cited Rice, Dartmouth and Yale, where students belong to one residential college for four years.

Further study

Other task forces will be formed to examine specific elements of residential life deemed out of scope for the ResX task force.

A task force on Greek life will be convened to review and potentially make recommendations on the timing of rush, the possibility of 100 percent residential self-selection, “equitable access to housing for [Greek] chapters” and the potential for some students to receive “three years guaranteed housing on the Row.”

Additionally, a task force on “residential medical accommodations” will be convened “to ensure equal access and inclusion for all students in each neighborhood.”

The report provided no further details on the composition or timeline of formation of these additional task forces.

“No peer institutions offer this level of student agency while providing a foundation of community continuity,” the report reads. “ResX does not address all issues of the residential education experience, and the task force recommends further study.”

This article has been corrected to reflect the fact that the ResX recommendations aim to re-envision residential life over the next quarter-century, not century. The Daily regrets this error.

Contact Julia Ingram at jmingram ‘at’ stanford.edu, Holden Foreman at hs4man21 ‘at’ stanford.edu and Cooper Veit at cveit ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Julia Ingram ’21 The Daily's Volume 256 editor-in-chief. She is a New York City native majoring in English literature and working toward a career in news reporting. Contact her at jmingram ‘at’ stanford.edu.
Holden Foreman '21 is The Daily's Executive Editor. He hails from the city of St. Louis, Missouri and is studying electrical engineering, computer science and economics. Contact him at hs4man21 'at' stanford.edu.
Cooper Veit '22 is a local news writer and amateur Steinbeck scholar from San Francisco. Talk to him about the work and life of John Steinbeck.