Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Math, Empty Wallets Show Students Lose in Housing Raffle

I take Math in Society. If you ask me, it should be a requirement for every student of every major. How could anyone function without knowing how many sides are on a stop sign (eight) or how many stories there are in a 10-story building (we haven’t gotten to that chapter yet).

I discovered the vital importance of math in society firsthand last Thursday night at the InterHall Freshmen Housing Raffle.

But this story really begins a month ago, when three friends and I decided to go for an apartment. Each of us had two selection points. The rumor is that some varsity sports can garner you extra points, but apparently, our third-place finish in the intramural flag football league got us nothing.

We decided to buy some tickets for the InterHall Housing Raffle. Each person could buy up to six two-dollar raffle tickets for each of the six units being raffled off. That means everyone is allowed 36 tickets – adding up to a possible grand total of $72 per person (I didn’t include our $35,000 tuition).

The prizes were one Village A apartment, one Village B apartment, one Henle apartment, one Copley Suite, one Southwest Quad single and one LXR single.

We each bought a few golden tickets and put them all into Village B. That way, we could avoid the disappointment of losing six times, and instead, experience the disappointment of losing only once.

Then came the big day – housing selection number day. I was happy to see the downtrodden looks on my fellow classmates’ faces because, though their dreams had been shattered, this meant there was a better chance that mine could come true – the classic “men and women for others” philosophy. I pulled up the e-mail, and there it was . lucky number 201!

I told myself to look on the bright side: If 200 people decided that they didn’t like their Village A apartment (“What are we going to do with all this space?” they may inquire), it would be ours!

We began brainstorming excuses. “I have claustrophobia,” or, “I have food allergies that require me to cook in a Village A kitchen.” Apparently, the allergies one has been used before, and, sometimes, Georgetown solves the problem by giving you an apartment with three other allergy kids (If any of you readers have real or fake allergies, please e-mail me so we can talk about rooming together next year). Another loophole is to apply for the Muslim Interest Living Community – which, according to the site, is “designed to create a strong support group for Muslims and non-Muslims who want to be steadfast in prayer and in their commitment to campus building and cooperation.” And it can land you a flat in Alumni Square. I considered pulling a Cat Stevens.

We realized, however, that there was no need for excuses. We still had a shot with the Housing Raffle.

Which brings me back to that fateful Thursday night. We headed over to the Alumni Lounge, where dreams go to die.

After the singles were auctioned off to two less-than-enthusiastic people, they came to Village B. Our luck ran out . we lost. And the worst part is, we lost to some girl who didn’t even show up. “It’s all right,” we told ourselves, “at least we’re number 201 on the waitlist.”

As I looked around at all the people in the room and all the failed tickets in their hands, I realized, “Someone made a lot of money tonight.” It felt like I was on the verge of uncovering an underground crime syndicate. “What is this InterHall, anyway?” I began wondering.

I spoke with Jacob Baranoski (COL `10), vice president of InterHall. He told me that 7,000 tickets had been sold, with Village A and Henle the most popular.

Here’s where Math in Society came in. 7,000 tickets at $2 each . that’s $14,000!

After I’d produced this result on my calculator, I asked him, “What is this money going toward?”

He gave me a few activities that InterHall was working on, including Target bus trips and free national newspaper distribution for students on campus – a project to which, as I learned in a Jan. 29 article in THE HOYA (“National Newspapers to Be Distributed on Campus,” A1), InterHall donated $5,000. “Anything else?” I asked.

“We’re having a game of Bingo right now.” Yes, Bingo – that lovable game that keeps your grandparents occupied in Palm Beach. Apparently, my hard-earned $12 in tickets went into buying prizes for “Bingo is for Lovers” – an event intended to kick off the Valentine’s Day week with free food and romantic prizes including movie tickets (I suggest “There Will be Blood”). Great idea – nothing makes you feel better after losing in a housing raffle than losing repeatedly at Bingo.

I’m not implying that InterHall isn’t using the money well. I happen to like Target and Bingo and newspapers. I’m just angry about three things. First and foremost, I’m mad that I probably won’t have a sink next year. Second, I’m mad that InterHall cleverly has you buy up to $72 dollars in tickets before you know your housing number. That means if you draw a lucky number and get your apartment, you’ve wasted your money. And finally, I’m mad that they give you no indication of how terrible your chances are. At best, if you buy 36 tickets, there’s about a .5 percent chance of winning (Math in Society, chapter eight). They raise your hopes by telling you that “someone’s got to win” but they don’t tell you that you have better odds of being on a plane with a drunken pilot (117 to 1).

The moral of this story is this: Avoid spending money on contests of luck when you don’t know how terrible your odds are. Sorry, got to run. I think I just got Bingo.

Andrew Dubbins is a freshman in the College.

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