Marist College’s famed priority points system’s time at the school may be up, as ideas for implementing a new way of assigning housing gain traction. The current system, which allows students to earn points for choosing their own housing through a variety of criteria, has been a controversial topic within the Marist community. Now, the school’s administration is proposing to transition to a more traditional lottery system, similar to the ones found in the majority of colleges across the country.
The priority point system is based on the concept of assigning points to students according to four categories: academic average, involvement with extra-curricular activities, disciplinary history, and residence area condition. At the end of a semester, each student is given a report where they can see the total number of points they earned. This number is what is used for determining a student’s placement in the housing process. Students with a higher number of points are more likely to get their preferred housing than those with a lower amount, as they are given an earlier time slot to apply.
Throughout the time priority points have existed at Marist, there have always been a number of complaints from students about the system. For students like sophomore Courtney Fallon, one of the main issues they have is the commitment required to get a high number of points. “If you want to have the first spot on the housing list, you have to do everything and put so much time and effort into things like clubs,” she said. “For something like community service for example, if you don’t do it every single week you don’t get those points.”
Many students find that balancing time to do schoolwork and be actively involved in clubs is an increasingly difficult task. Fallon sees how difficult it is for students to get these points firsthand in her work as the secretary for the Social Work Association Board. “I’m in charge of assigning priority points to the members of the club, and so many of them didn’t get the points because you have to at least go to 75 percent of the meetings and events,” she said. “That’s too much and no one really has that time. If you miss one, you basically get nothing.”
In order to address student concerns, a town hall meeting hosted by Marist College President David Yellen, Student Body President Ted Dolce, and Student Government Association Vice President Ankofa Billips took place Feb. 6.
One of the main issues touched upon surrounding the priority points system is how students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are adversely affected. Students that have to help their families or work other jobs do not have time to be involved with activities such as clubs, therefore having a negative impact on their ability to choose housing. “This is one of the main reasons why we are considering making a change to the housing system, either modifying the way priority points work or just switching to a lottery system all together,” said President Yellen. “The current system is detrimental to these groups.”
One of the proposed changes to the current system would be to remove the academic portion of priority points, putting the emphasis more on activity participation. This is because the school’s administration believes that the priority points system should be used for cultivating campus culture. However, a number of students disagree with the fact that their GPA’s should not affect their ability to get the housing they want. “You go to college to do work and further your education, not join a club,” said senior Alexandria Burnell. “If your grades are suffering because you are spending so much time participating in activities, it kind of defeats the purpose of why you’re going to school in the first place.”
On switching to a lottery system, there is a variety of opinions among students. Some, like Burnell, are in favor of implementing it. “My sister went to Quinnipiac University and they had a lottery system,” she said. “I think it’s a simpler and fairer way to assign housing, and that way you can live with whoever you want instead of being judged on how many priority points you have.”
Others though, believe that a lottery system would not be an ideal way of assigning housing. “With a lottery system you have no control over where you get to live, which is one thing I like about priority points,” said sophomore Cameryn Fontana. “Why would I put such an important part of my college life in the hands of chance like it’s a game of bingo?”
Whether the priority points system stays as is, gets substantial changes, or is removed entirely, the decision will not take effect until the beginning of the Fall 2019 semester at the earliest.