Accommodation lottery is the fairest of them all

Previously described as “the worst system seen at one of the best universities” and “an unfair lottery”, the University of York’s application process for accommodation has left a lot to be desired.

Organisation-wise, there isn’t any. The so called ‘first come first served’ process (totally undermined by staggered email sending) has left a bitter taste in many a student’s mouth before having even entered their freshers’ week. After yet another year of endless complaints, it is unsurprising that changes have finally been announced regarding the system.

For the organised among freshers, who commit to York for their firm choice, this is great news. Chances are, you’ll be able to live in one of the sought-after rooms in the luxury accommodation you scouted out on the open day. On the other hand, for those with York as their insurance choice, emails will be released 24 hours after this first batch; meaning a place at the bottom of the accommodation food chain.

Receiving my fabled email, with horror, at 8pm, I was one of many who felt thoroughly ripped off by the system (in which there was no distinction between firm and insurance applicants). Despite this, I believe there is definitely something to be said in favour of the random side of the procedure.

Without wanting to point the finger at what is arguably the worst accommodation on campus (yes, including James N Block) to say my heart sank when a STYC first walked me through Wentworth E Block, would be an understatement: Peeling paint on the death-by-beige exterior, breeze block corridors and the most bizarrely positioned wardrobe ever seen, was the sorry result of my belated email.

However, on the first night of drinking in our ‘cosy’ kitchens, the ice was already broken by speculation about the similarity of our mental-asylum-chic rooms to those of Broadmoor.

Throughout the course of the year, some even argue the conditions got worse. Regardless, the past term at Wentworth has featured the birth of Dumbledore’s Army (goslings), a unique photographic mural and a state of the art heated (paddling) pool.

The simple fact is that this random allocation of emails allows for a strong mixture of personalities in each accommodation type. If there existed only a simple first come first served process, the more organised and arguably wealthier students would be concentrated in certain areas. The risk being that this could lead to sectionalisation across campus and perceived judgement based solely upon your address; not uncommon at some universities.

Having survived, and more importantly enjoyed, my year of questionable quality accommodation, I feel distinctly less like the application system left me with the short straw.

Next year, residents of Vanbrugh Palace could find themselves in lesser conditions in the private sector. However, with the strong belief that no private housing could possibly feature mould outbreaks alongside sporadic ant infestations: for those who have experienced the lower band this year, accommodation-wise, the only way is up.

“It’s what you make of it” is the tired cliché said to those who find themselves in these initially unbecoming situations. Although this phrase is fitting for the less attractive blocks around campus, surely it’s also the general rule for all university accommodation? Yes, it’s arguable that the accommodation lottery shakes things up a bit, but if it manages to prove the point that bad accommodation and a good time are not mutually exclusive, is there any need to complain?

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