The choices that describe the dorm room assignment problem are a combination of student requests and management decisions. Students specify their preferences for halls, room type, non-smoking environments, music tastes, study habits, and requests for up to five specific roommates on their application forms. Residency seniority and prompt application submission are used to prioritize these requests -- some chance is involved in the order applications are received at the Housing office.
The Housing Reservations staff is responsible for assigning students to their beds each semester. As proxy for the students, the Housing staff strives to minimize complaints and maximize those who choose to reside on-campus. This one-level of indirection provides an opportunity to gain a global perspective and an overall better final arrangement.
In addition to previously established procedures, Housing Management makes critical choices regarding the placement of co-eds by designating room attributes such as gender and smoking, and prioritizing student preferences.
These human choices define the problem we describe here in further detail.