Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor

Students experienced lack of clear communication and an unresponsive housing portal on Tuesday, Sept. 19.

September 19, 2023

Housing Selection Website Crashes, Leaving Students in Limbo

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Update, Sept. 20, 11:15 a.m.: Students reported an unresponsive website into Wednesday’s make-up general room selection period until approximately 10:47 a.m., when the website appeared to be working properly.

The University’s housing portal crashed Tuesday, Sept. 19 shortly after general housing selection began with no clear communication from Housing and Residential Life, creating confusion among students who were told to register for upper-level undergraduate housing starting at 10 a.m.

Students reported logging into the housing applications on StarRez when they started to experience delays and unresponsiveness from the site, receiving messages such as “Service temporarily unavailable” and “The system is experiencing higher than expected usage. Please try again later.”

The accelerated general housing selection process is part of the change in the upperclassmen housing selection process announced in May 2023 with the purpose of facilitating on-campus housing for rising upperclassmen for the 2024-2025 school year. The general housing selection process was scheduled to occur on Tuesday after residents wishing to remain in their same room indicated their decision to Housing and Residential Life from Sept. 5 to Sept. 13.

“I feel like there has been a lack of coordination overall this year, a big shortage of housing overall and it seems like [the University] haven’t gotten it figured out,” said Max Warner ’26,  who decided to opt for continuous occupancy instead of applying for the general housing selection. Students who decide to stay in their same room for the following year are guaranteed housing, while those going through the general room selection process are not.

Cornell Housing announced at 9 a.m. via their Instagram story that they were anticipating an increased number of users on the housing portal and urged users to only use one device to log into the portal. At 10 a.m., the account announced that the system was overwhelmed and the general room selection process would be halted and resumed later in the day.

By 12:40 p.m., Cornell Housing had announced that they were unable to send or receive emails, and around 3 p.m., they posted a final Instagram story indicating that the system was overwhelmed by many more people accessing the website than those who were signed up for room selection. They also announced that the process would resume Wednesday, Sept. 20 at 10 a.m. and that more information would be sent later on the next steps. 

“It was pretty stressful because of the housing [process] itself and I had to balance that while taking my prelim — there was still the thought [of housing] on the back of my mind,” said Simon Cespedes ’26, who was taking an exam during the time housing selection process went live and did not learn the site had crashed until afterwards. 

Students took to social media and online forums like Reddit to voice their discontent with the process. Some criticized the management of general room selection as students were not given a time slot to select rooms as done in past years, which likely resulted in many students attempting to access the portal at once. 

“I wish there were time slots for housing. I don’t agree with the idea of just juniors and seniors being able to pick wherever they want to go,” Rosalynn Silva ’26 said. “I felt like it was the Hunger Games this morning and I wish the website worked better.” 

At 6:15 p.m., Housing and Residential Life released a written statement explaining that the crash was caused because the website was inundated by 3,000 active users, compared to the 1,200 students registered for the housing selection process. They also announced that they would divide the general room selection process between Wednesday, Sept. 20 at 10 a.m. for students wishing to reside on South Campus, North Campus and the Townhouse Apartments and Thursday, Sept. 21 at 10 a.m. for West Campus.

The statement also explained that some housing contracts initiated this morning were not able to be finalized, resulting in the cancellation of some room assignments for students who signed up for housing on Tuesday. 

“We believe a small number of students selected a bed this morning, but due to the glitches everyone faced, these housing contracts were not finalized, and these students will need to participate in the process again,” the statement read. “We are communicating separately with those individuals.”

Housing and Residential Life told The Sun they are working to fix the problems on the portal to allow students to reserve housing on Wednesday. 

“We apologize for what proved to be a frustrating experience, and we’re sympathetic to those who spent time trying to secure the housing they hoped for,” Karen Brown, senior director of campus life marketing and communications wrote in a statement to The Sun. “We’re optimistic that things will go more smoothly when the process resumes tomorrow.”