At 7:15 p.m. on April 14 — just over two hours into the five-hour block in which rising sophomores had been assigned times to select housing for next year — 178 first-years were informed via email that the housing selection process was closed, and that they would have to wait until the summer waitlist process in July to choose their room.
The incident, which came as a shock to many, has left students dismayed at the lack of communication from the college both prior to and following the housing selection process.
Signed by the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) Operations team, the 7:15 p.m. email was sent right after the last rooms listed in the online housing portal had been taken.
“It is important to note that we intend to assign all Amherst College students seeking housing for the fall semester; however, your particular assignment cannot be made immediately,” the email read.
The email also stated that the waitlist selection process will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on July 21, and noted that a communication to be sent on May 13 will provide more information about participating in the process.
In addition to rising sophomores who did not get to select a room, the waitlist includes 29 rising seniors and 61 rising juniors who did not select housing in their designated time blocks on the previous two days, despite rooms being available.
Honon Lee ’25, whose selection time was 8:20 p.m., said he felt blindsided by the OSA email. “It was like, ‘Well, I can't do anything,’ and then I just kind of went into a panic, hard-calling my parents,” he said. “It was a very panicky and stressful situation.”
Ellerman Mateo ’25 expressed surprise at receiving it. “I see an email that says, ‘You’ve been placed on the summer waitlist.’ And at the moment, I’m so confused, because I’m like, ‘Shouldn’t there be enough room for everybody?’” he said.
In a statement to The Student, Senior Associate Dean of Students Dean Gendron wrote that there is a housing waitlist process every year, noting that many spaces become available over the summer as fall enrollment decreases due to reasons like transfers, voluntary withdrawals, and late decisions to study away.
Gendron added that the waitlist this year is larger than usual, as 79 beds were reserved for incoming Community Advisors (CA) and 74 beds remain available in theme and language communities.
Isabelle Anderson ’25 feels that the college could have communicated better about the shortage ahead of time. “I think the issue was a lack of transparency and the fact that they clearly knew this was going to happen and now have [presented no plan] to go forward with,” she said.
“I think the lack of planning is very frustrating,” Lee echoed. “And, you know, it’s kind of sad, but I know a lot of friends who were like, ‘If this keeps up, I’m very heavily considering transferring out of Amherst.’”
Regarding the college’s ability to plan for the housing selection shortage, Gendron stated, “We are able to forecast many factors, but not all. Our current COVID-affected calendar and restrictions don’t allow us to foresee the myriad ways in which students’ various opportunities, that emerge across all 12 months of a calendar year, may affect their choices to live on campus or not.”
An email sent by OSA Operations to all rising sophomores on April 14 at 2:21 p.m. — a few hours before their housing selection process was scheduled to begin — did include that, “We anticipate that many rising sophomores will not yield an assignment this evening.”
However, Lee feels that the email was not an adequate way of communicating the information: “It was like one little sentence in a paragraph. So it was super easy to overlook.”
Students also expressed frustration at the lack of information provided about the summer housing selection process.
“They’ve offered no specific insight as to what they’re going to do besides putting us on the waitlist,” said Anderson, “which I think is insane because it’s basically just leaving everything to chance, and it’s going to happen in July. So it’s very crazy that they have not told us anything besides ‘You’re going to be on the waitlist.’”
“We still don’t know what a waitlist means,” added Lee. “Like, what does it mean? Am I still gonna get the same room? Where exactly am I going to be put?”
Gendron stated that they “will use students’ Selection Numbers, adjusted as may be required for those who hold registered accommodations, to conduct the next phase of the process on Thursday, July 21.”
He added that “[t]here are more than enough beds for all students who are as yet unhoused.”
Given the uncertainty of their situation, however, some yet-unhoused rising sophomores are exploring housing options outside of the general process, such as living off campus or becoming a CA.
Anderson said her parents want her to look into off-campus housing, but she’s doubtful that it’s a legitimate option. “The issue is so many UMass kids have already probably planned. So most of the apartments in town are probably gone,” she said.
One rising sophomore, who wished to remain anonymous, said that they have applied to be a CA solely because of their uncertain housing situation. “[After learning that I would be unable to select housing,] I immediately started the CA application because I just needed the option of being in a house, I guess. And it really did feel like I was being forced into that CA position,” they said.
The CA application process will likely be more competitive than years past, according to a statement provided by Assistant Director of Residential Life for Education and Engagement Amber Rice: “As interest in holding the Community Advisor position has increased, the number of applications received has also grown.”
CA applications will continue to be accepted until 4 p.m. on April 20.
Noting a potential upside of the whole situation, Mateo said that the prospect of being placed in a different dorm than most rising sophomores offered the opportunity to meet new people. “I think [it will be] like freshman orientation again, where you’re forced to meet these new people. And I guess people need to get out of that comfort level and actually explore and meet new people,” he said.
Despite her concerns, Anderson expressed faith that the college would resolve the housing situation. “I think at this point, obviously, it’s still very fresh, and I want to trust and believe that Amherst will find us a place to live,” she said.
“Going forward, I’m not as much anxious for what’s coming. I’m more just disappointed with what’s already happened,” Anderson added.
In response to student concerns, Gendron stated, “We will continue to collaborate with campus partners to improve the process and response to fluid COVID-affected timelines and constrictions.”