Some stories told in our comments deserve their own posts.

Perhaps an account of what I think was the first sign that free agency is not perfect might be helpful here. Keep in mind I only know one side of the story.

I am referring to the “race for Tyler” in the 1996 room draw. (Perhaps Ken might have heard of or even remember this.)

Free agency was formally established for the 1994 room draw. It might seem shocking now that for the first two all-campus room draws, no one thought of the idea of organizing a group to get together, take over a house, and change its character completely. Somehow, the characters of houses were assumed to be immutable, protected by squatters and natural preferences based on location and facilities. To be sure, smaller houses were taken over by groups of friends, but these were groups relatively consistent with the recent history of the house.

For ‘94-’95 and ‘95-’96, Tyler and Tyler Annex were largely “outposts of odd-ness”. For the ‘96 room draw, there were reports that some helmet-sport athletes were organizing to “take over” Tyler.(1) This prompted counter-organization to “save Tyler”, including seniors who liked the community promoted by the common space, and juniors and sophmores who were willing to trade the long walk for the nice rooms. The suspicion was that the helmet-sport athletes wanted the large common areas to hold keg parties and would “trash the place”. In any case, none of the odd folks would’ve wanted to live in a house with frequent keg parties.

The goal on both sides was explicit: to gain a majority of the house, which has in total around 25 or 30 beds, so that they could win house elections and set house policy. Some slightly underhanded tactics were used, including at least one pick by a student planning on withdrawing for the coming year, and picks for people studying abroad who had been vague about their preferences. There was also campaigning to encourage people at least sympathetic to oddness to pick rooms in Tyler, especially around the middle of the (rising) junior picks which was considered to be the crucial tipping point. With the exact count uncertain, since no one knew exactly who was on the other side, lobbying continued outside room draw.(2)

The race fizzed out when, with the count still uncertain, a group of junior athletes with high picks decided not to chance it and picked somewhere else.(3) The small number of athletes who had already picked into Tyler were essentially able to trade their rooms for a pick and ended up essentially with mid-junior picks.(4) I believe it was an implicit understanding that this courtesy of being allowed to trade for a pick would have been extended the losing side.(5)

I don’t remember if the administration ever really knew what happened beyond a few strange looking room swaps.

Thanks to Alexander Woo ’97 for sharing. Read the whole comment for further details. I believe that, a few years later, helmet sport athletes did, in fact, succeed in taking over Tyler/Tyler Annex. True?

Tell us your stories about room draw.

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