Berkeley Student Cooperative cancels several housing contracts

Nicole White/Senior Staff

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Several Berkeley Student Cooperative members will be forced to seek alternative housing arrangements next fall due to changes in the cooperative’s online enrollment and registration system.

The new online system, which replaces the BSC’s more than 20-year-old registration software, has been criticized by many cooperative members, who say that it has resulted in undue frustration, stress and several cancelled housing offers for this summer and next fall.

Some students currently living in BSC housing said they faulted the new registration system’s shorter deadlines and poor design for the loss of their housing. Some administrators from the cooperative, however, said that cancelled housing offers were probably caused by members’ failure to read their emails and sign up or to pay in the allotted time.

“For whatever reason, there are some people who were not able to renew their contract or chose not to renew their contract,” said BSC President Austin Pritzkat. “No one is losing their housing.”

The new online registration system requires students hoping to accept a new housing offer or renew a current housing contract to log in to a portal and register during an approximately seven-hour time slot. Students must then visit the portal the following day and either pay or request a payment deferment.

Lothlorien House’s housing manager Carli Jipsen said that members who failed to login and register or pay during either time slot had their housing contracts cancelled and were subsequently relegated to a lengthy wait list, which she compared to being in a state of “limbo.” While some BSC members are currently seeking alternative housing options, other members have chosen to remain on the waitlist in hopes of re-securing a contract in their current house.

I just wanted to stay in my house — why do I need to log in to do the same thing that I’ve already done to stay in the same house?” said sophomore Noel Pond-Danchik, who said she had already formally indicated her intention to continue living at Wolfe House.

About three percent of the BSC’s approximately 1,250 members failed or chose not to renew their contracts, according to Prizkat. But while some members recognized that their failure to sign in during the allotted time slots caused the cancellation of their housing offers, others blamed problems with the registration system’s design and operation.

Graduate student Averell Gatton said in an email that her summer and fall housing contracts were cancelled because she forgot her password and could not reset it by the deadline to log in because the online system lacked an automated password reset feature and the BSC central office was closed at the time.

After two months of emails and in-person conversations with BSC staff, Gatton eventually re-secured a contract for her room this summer but, because of the uncertainty of the waitlist, will seek alternative housing this fall.

Omid Shams Solari, a campus graduate student, said the interface is clunky, confusing and prone to errors.

Approximately 10 housing managers met with a BSC official Thursday to voice their concerns about the new system’s short registration and payment time slots, according to Jipsen.

Jipson added that the managers also questioned the lack of a trial period to test the new system and suggested allowing members more time for payment and registration.

“While I empathize with those who experienced confusion the first time around, the system is not prejudiced against certain members,” said BSC vice president of external affairs Tim Blair in an email.All of the problems with RMS (the online registration system) brought to our housing and bookkeeping staff have been demonstrably some error by the user.”

Blair added that the new system allows members to check their balance, make payments, change their housing preferences and view housing availability in real time online. The system also frees up staff time and saves the organization money in credit card fees, according to Prizkat.

Pritzkat said there is no current plan to change the system, adding that any decision to rework the system will be made by the the cooperative’s board of directors and staff.

Contact Adam Iscoe at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @iscoe_dc.

A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Averell Gatton as a female, and indicated that he will be seeking alternative housing next fall. In fact, Gatton will live in a different room in the same Berkeley Student Cooperative house he is currently living in next fall.