Today is the second night of the infamous and dreaded housing lottery. Those students who were smart enough to seek out Program Housing will circumvent the process. In years past, one lucky person and his/her group would win the right to first pick in the lottery by entering him/herself in a raffle; this year, however, the raffle was done away with. Regardless, winning the first pick awards the winner and his/her group the coveted opportunity to have the first choice from any housing unit on campus.
However, in ancient times (i.e. as late as spring 2010), winning the first pick in the housing lottery used to be less simple than choosing a silly raffle ticket out of a box. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), many students don’t know about the previous way one could win the first pick: a video competition. This year’s seniors are the last people to have experienced said competition.
Back in the spring of 2010, in order to be eligible for the first pick, a group of students needed to create a three-and-a-half-minute video explaining why their group deserved the best room on campus. The video could be a spoof of a TV Show, music video, TSA, etc.
My friends and I entered the competition as one of eight groups. During one evening, each of the eight videos was screened in front of 300 people in Sayles Hall. After all the videos were shown, ResLife workers handed out one piece of paper to each student on which one was supposed to write the name of his/her favorite video. Of course, the definition of “favorite” was up for interpretation, and really meant whether or not it was your friend’s video (some classy folks decided to be objective on voting, but that breed of human was rare).
A little background on my group’s video: It was called “Insourced,” and was a play off of the television show “60 Minutes.” What you need to know about our film is that it was slightly insensitive and a tad racist, to say the least. Out of the eight submissions, I could honestly say that we didn’t even sniff being among the top three videos.
After the screening at Sayles Hall, we realized that we had little to no shot of winning the first pick competition. The only option was to campaign our asses off for the next week (voting, which could also be done online, ended after one week). We needed to campaign really badly. This is where we exploited the two biggest flaws in the competition. First, the winning the competition was contingent upon how many votes one’s video received, not upon how good the video was. Second, one didn’t need to actually watch the video in order to vote.
As such, my group’s campaigning strategy was relentless. There were seven of us, and we split up the arduous task of knocking on all 500+ dorm rooms in Keeney to see if those who didn’t vote would vote for us. We constantly circulated the Ratty and V-Dub, and attended sponsored events and frat parties, laptop always in hand. I knew I had lost my mind after I had pulled off three all-nighters in five nights at the SciLi, just with the goal to get the measly 15-20 people left at 4 a.m. to vote for us. When the week of voting ended, we received an email from the Dean of ResLife saying that we won and shattered the previous record of votes. In total, we accumulated more than 1,000 student’s votes.
I would like to have concluded this story by saying my friends and I celebrated our victory and were at ease after a week of tireless campaigning. Not the case.
Within minutes of ResLife announcing our victory, people expressed their outrage. The most glaring act of hostility was a junior male who threatened to go to Dean Bergeron and have the members of my group and myself expelled for being unfair or some shit like that. Idiot.
You might be wondering why these people thought our brilliant campaign strategy was “unfair.” Two words: TWIZZLERS and DUMDUMS.
Members of our group always had candy on hand throughout our entire campaign. The bottom line: the origin of all of the widespread animosity we encountered was candy.
After a few weeks, the heat died down and our group no longer was treated like a campus pariah. Years later, I look back on the experience as wonderful. I grew closer to the students who directed one of the other entry videos, “Law & Order: Pacman,” which was probably the video that should have won. I also appreciated the BDH article by Sarah Yu ’11 entitled “Campaigning to Win” who understood that while our video wasn’t the best, we simply wanted to win more than any other group. During that hectic week, I met a lot of friendly people, many with whom I actually became good friends.
Remember that while the Housing Lottery can be stressful, you can come out of with plenty of memories that may last throughout your entire time at Brown.