Office Lottery

Lottery System for Graduate Student Office Assignments

Revised July 2003, Updated July 2005

Once we have received sufficient space for all grad students, the lottery begins. The first step is to identify two groups of students: 

  • those wishing to remain in current offices, and 
  • those wishing to acquire an office via the lottery. 

The process consists of two distinct rounds, one for each of the groups above: 

The first round is for those students who already have an office in LSRC. Because we favor a student's right to stay in their current (LSRC) office, every such student has that option subject to the approval of his/her advisor. In order to avoid potential conflicts, we establish an order of these students based on seniority (similar to the second round of the lottery - see below) and students are asked in this order. The reason for doing so is that the decision of the student and his/her advisor approval may depend on who is currently assigned in an office; the ordering will help resolve the conflicts. Those students who decide to remain in their offices and have approval of their advisors are removed from the lottery, as well as the office space they occupy, otherwise they enter the third round of the lottery. 

All remaining students enter the second round of the lottery. We establish an ordering of the students based on number of years in the department and number of classes completed. This gives preference to the students that have been around the longest. For tie breakers, we use a random number generator (in the past we have used For example, say we have a tie between 15 first year students, since each has been in the department one year. We generate a random number between 1 and 15 and place the corresponding student on the ordered list. We continue the process with the remaining 14 students and so on until the final order is established. 

After the ordering is done, we begin the next phase. At any time, any student can be brought into an office by a student currently assigned to that office as long as all students in the office agree. This includes students keeping their offices from previous years as well as those entering an office for the new year. Those selected (but not those doing the selecting) must gain their advisors' approval before accepting the invitation. 

Then, we simply follow the order of lottery picks and let students select their office. Each selection is, again, subject to advisor approval and to the current list of available office spaces.

In summary, the rules are: 

  1. Any decision made by a student regarding his/her office assignment is subject to advisor approval and to the current state of the lottery. 
  2. If a student is currently assigned to an office, he/she can bring in someone into the office at any time as long as all officemates agree (note that rule #1 applies only to the incoming student). 
  3. The remaining offices are subject to the lottery. An order is created based on seniority (how long you have been here and how many classes you have completed) and randomness (for ties - ie. most of the first years).
  4. Once an office is assigned, one can apply rule #2 and bring in whoever they would like as long as everyone is in agreement. 

Regarding logistics and other stuff: 

  • The entire process is run by a specified senior student.
  • If any special circumstances arise that require the placement of a student into a particular office, a request for exception must be filed with the DGS and receive approval before room assignment is finalized.
  • When it's your turn to decide, you will receive an email notification, at which point you have to reply with your decision and cc your advisor for confirmation. 
  • Once this is done, you should reply with another email to indicate whether you would like to bring somebody in. All your current officemates have to be cc'ed on that. 
  • One idea that had circulated was to modify the tie breaker methodology (particularly for first years) to give students who provide high service to the department higher status in the order. Two scenarios were kicked around but we have not yet decided which would be done: a) give these students preferential treatment and place them higher in the order or b) give these students more 'tickets' in the lottery to increase the likelihood of getting a higher lottery pick (ala NBA lottery).