March 4, 2013

Cornell Housing Website Crashes, Delaying Selection of Rooms

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Students found themselves without housing for the next year after Cornell’s online housing portal experienced major technical problems Monday, the first day of the housing lottery. Students were unable to select rooms, and in some cases, their signed house contracts were nullified.

The housing portal became inoperable due to “unforeseen technical issues,” according to a notice on the Cornell Housing website. An email was also sent to students with similar information and an apology from the University Monday evening.

In response to the technical complications, the housing selection process will be delayed by 48 hours until the problem has been resolved, according to the housing website notification.

Barbara Romano, director of residential and event services, and Carlos Gonzalez, assistant director of residential and event services, said that the system was inexplicably overloaded with student activity about 10 minutes into the beginning of the housing selection.

“There are typically 200 to 250 students online at any one time, and not usually more than 350 on at once,” Gonzalez said. “At some points, there were three times as many students online. The system was not expecting such an overload.”

According to Romano and Gonzalez, the portal only gives access to students who have assigned timeslots at that moment, so it is unclear why so many students were able to use the website.

“We’re still figuring it out, and this is a very serious problem to us,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve never experienced anything like this in the past.”

Initially, Romano and Gonzalez said that they hoped to fix the issue within 24 hours, but an email Monday night stated it will now take 48 hours to resolve.

According to Gonzalez, both students and the Housing Office have expressed anxiety about the crash.

“Some students have approached us, and they are concerned and surprised. We share their concern and stress,” Gonzalez said. “Overall, though, students have been great and very reasonable in working with us.”

Some students, including Kent Chan ’16, were surprised to find that although they had signed their housing contracts before the crash, the contract had been cancelled.

“My friends and I were done at 5:20 [p.m.], and we had signed our contracts. By 5:30 [p.m.], I learned that the housing portal had shut down and that my contract was void,” Chan said. “I am really frustrated. … Shutting down the housing portal was the right thing to do given the technical issues, but cancelling everything was not.”

Other students echoed [Chan’s] sentiment, saying the issue was surprising.

“It is pretty ironic because Cornell has such tech prowess, but we still have to wait [48] hours to fix the housing portal,” Avinash Murugan ’16 said.

Students also noted the lack of information about the the issue and when it would be fixed.

“I feel like the information they gave us in the email and on the website was insufficient and not very clear,” Chan said. “It did not explain what the problems were or why they made such a drastic decision to close the housing portal and cancel the contracts.”

Some students said they are afraid that the problem will occur again later in the housing selection process.

“The email that the Housing Office sent was delayed, and it didn’t have any information about how it will be fixed. I’m really afraid that this will happen tomorrow, and that everything will be pushed back even farther,” Murugan said.

Original Author: Lauren Avery