Housing and Residential Services (HRS) will try to reopen its website to applicants today at 8 p.m. – its third attempt to get the system back up and running since Feb. 1.

The online system crashed for unknown reasons on Feb. 1 and Feb. 3 upon being opened to students vying for the 1,000 spots in the on-campus residence halls for the 2006-07 school year. If this third attempt also fails, Pam Cort, manager of Residence Halls Assignment Services, said HRS plans to select applicants via a lottery system in order to avoid continued delays.

Employees at Information Services, a subsidiary of HRS in charge of its online network, did not return phone calls seeking comment Wednesday afternoon on why the system had failed.

“We’re doing our best to fix it,” Cort said of the HRS website. “We’ve done stress tests and diagnostics with Microsoft, and we are still not sure [what the problem is]. If this doesn’t work, plan B is to go to a lottery.”

A lottery is already used to select applicants for university-owned apartments, but this system gives priority to certain students based on class level. If HRS decides to use a lottery for on-campus housing, however, the system would be designed for a more equitable distribution of the available spots.

“We would do a fair distribution of contracts so that this year’s freshmen are not left in the cold,” Cort said. “Current seniors would have about 50 spaces available and current freshmen would have about 700. This is because seniors have more ability to live in Isla Vista, and are also eligible to live in the [university-owned] apartments.”

Students would have until Feb. 21 to apply for the lottery in the event that it is placed into effect. Those students who managed to obtain a spot during the first two tries before the system crash would also have to participate in the lottery.

The online system experienced trouble during last year’s application period as well, crashing and becoming unavailable for students trying to register in the same manner that it has this year. However, HRS managed to solve last year’s problem on the first try.

“Last year, the system crashed on Feb. 1, and it had never crashed before that,” Cort said. “Our technical staff has not identified [this year’s] problem. We’re doing our best to fix it.”

The decision to switch to a lottery system in case of further difficulty has been green-lighted by the Residence Halls Association Executive Board, a body composed of elected on-campus residents.

“This decision was not made without student approval,” said Cort. “A lot of students want control over their destiny, and if they are diligent with the current system they are almost guaranteed a spot. However, we want to make it fair for everyone.”

Some students have expressed concern over the lottery system.

“I’m not sure about a lottery system – we’re kinda screwed if we don’t get housing,” said Selena Serne, an undeclared freshman.

Cort said she was uncertain whether HRS would switch to a new system next year in an effort to preclude further difficulties, and that the decision is in the hands of other administrators.