What is the Lottery?

“The Lottery” is FCLIR’s name for the process by which members are enrolled in seminars and workshops based on their registration requests.

When you register for a seminar or workshop, enrollment is not automatic. Sometimes you get exactly what you want, and sometimes, at the other extreme, you get nothing at all. The latter usually happens only when members offer a single choice on their registration forms, but it has been known to happen to a member who offered four choices!

Historically, enrollment was managed by a small group of the founding members of LIR, who began to develop a more formal procedure as the membership of the organization grew. In 2003, oversight was transferred to the Curriculum Committee,. That committee developed a formal procedure that remains largely intact today, although how it is carried out in practice has changed a bit.

So how does it work?

As you know, registrations received before the “lottery deadline” each semester are considered without regard for the order in which they arrived in the LIR office. So you can afford to take a week or so after the Preview to review your options.

The LIR Office develops a spreadsheet where each of your choices is given a separate row, associated with the order (1-6) that you gave it on your form as well as a random number generated by the spreadsheet application. If there were no other considerations, the rows would then be sorted first on order and second on the random number, so that at the top of the spreadsheet are everyone’s first choices, followed by rows of second choices, and so forth. Then the office and Curriculum Committee simply go through the rows in order, assigning members to seminars until either the seminar is full or the member has been enrolled in as many seminars as wanted.

When seminars are full, the remaining registrations for that seminar are tentatively put on a wait list. However, at the end, members who were enrolled in as many seminars as they wanted, though possibly not their first choices, are removed from all wait lists.

At this point, initial class lists are sent out. Late registrations are handled by the office as they arrive, along with invitations to wait-listed members to fill slots vacated by participants withdrawing from their assigned seminars.

Simple? But then, there are the exceptions. Here are the current exceptions:

  1. Moderators are of course automatically enrolled in their own seminars. They don’t need to register for them but of course they take up one or two slots in the seminar.

  2. First-time members of LIR go to the head of the line when it comes to their first choices, in the first lottery that is held after they join. A once-in-a-lifetime privilege!

  3. One (but not both) of the moderators of a seminar can also exercise the privilege of being promoted to the head of the line.

  4. And members who were “lotteried out” of their first choice the preceding semester are also promoted.

#2, #3, and #4 can add up to as many as forty or so registrations, but fortunately they are usually spread out over the offerings, leaving plenty of slots. It is not common for a seminar to be filled before the assignment process gets to the end of all members’ first choices, but it tends to happen at least once each semester.

Another twist: For the past two years, on a trial basis, participants in Writing to Remember seminars have been allowed to pre-enroll, without registration, in their sections when they wish to continue in the same section. This policy, with clarifications, is about to become permanent. LIR is now up to five sections of WTR.

The issues

So the “exceptions” are the interesting part, and they are matters of policy. What do YOU think? Would you like to see some other people get priority, like the chairs of committees? Would you like to allow moderators to claim their privilege the semester after moderating, when perhaps they would actually have time to use it? How do you think the WTR pre-enrollment privilege should be handled?

Contact the Curriculum Committee or your favorite Council member with your suggestions.