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UI Housing and Dining extends roommate matching process after glitch

BY REBECCA MORIN | MARCH 05, 2013 5:00 AM

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Kelsey Willardson is excited abouty her approaching college years at the University of Iowa.
But a glitch in the UI’s so-called “housing portal” caused her — and many other incoming students — to experience a large inconvenience in a seemingly easy process.

“I had a lot of trouble with the housing application,” said incoming freshman Willardson. “It took me three days of trying to just gain access.”

UI Housing and Dining officials extended the roommate-match portal after a large number of incoming students tried to gain access to their housing applications.

“So many people were just trying to get into the system at the same time,” said Colleen Shaull, the applications coordinator for Housing and Dining. “It was just caused by a deadline everyone was trying to get into.”

UI officials announced last fall that students registering for on-campus housing for the 2013-14 school year have to choose their top five living-learning communities from roughly 30 different available options. Students choose a room in one of their chosen communities from a residence-hall floor plan.

Officials maintain, however, that the new design of the application was not the source of the problem.

“We didn’t have any problems with the portal, but we ran into a high volume of users,” said Von Stange, the director of Housing and Dining. “So the issue became that they were all trying to access the portal at once.”

The incoming students have two different processes to complete when applying for housing.

“One process is they have to apply for housing,” Stange said. “The other process is tweaking their roommate information by Feb. 28.”

That date has now been extended to March 10.

“The extension just gives more time for students to look for their roommates and finish some fine-tuning on their descriptions,” Stange said.

However, officials say the technical difficulties were not a result of students returning to the dorms. Returning students had chosen their own dorm by the time incoming freshmen were applying for housing.

“It had nothing to do with returning students, because they had a different application,” Stange said.

The application process for returning students mirrored the application for incoming freshmen.  Students were allowed to choose the room and living-learning community they wanted.

“You could get a room, and if you knew who you wanted to room with, they could choose the same room,” UI sophomore Caitlin Beck said.

The lack of a roommate search made the process a little difficult, Beck said. However, it was not a large hurdle for many returning students to resolve.

“I didn’t experience any problems, but I know some people that did,” she said.

Although there were some bumps in the road, several students said they were content with the application, but hope to see improvement in the future.

“Though it all turned out well, there was clear room for improvement,” Willardson said. “I think the intended design is good, but the reality is not.”


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