By Emily Royalty
For many college students who reside on campus, sharing a room is often easier said than done. Even for those of us who think we have found the perfect roommate, time often changes our perspectives. Before you know it, your relationship has soured faster than the milk in the mini-fridge and both of you are desperate to kick the other to the curb. Luckily, you have options, and Housing and Residential Services is here to help.
“The first thing to start with is to talk to your Resident Assistant and talk through what the problem is,” says AnnMarie Dunton, director of Housing and Residential Services. “They will try to mediate and help the two come up with a roommate agreement. A lot of times one person will have a problem when their roommate has too many guests over, or is watching TV too late or making too much noise. Those are the most common complaints that we get. The RA will put the agreement in writing and both people will sign it. That will usually solve the problem.” But not always. Inevitably, there are people who break their agreements. When this happens, the building director often gets involved, and “mediates depending on what the students want,” says Dunton.
Moving a student can be impossible for a couple of reasons, according to Dunton. First and foremost, there has to be space available to move a student. “If there’s no space, sometimes we’ll suggest a swap if everyone is willing and agrees to it,” says Dunton. More often than not, however, the problem is that nobody actually wants to move. “Frequently, we see roommates who have a situation and want to switch [roommates], but neither wants to leave the room. We won’t force anyone to move who doesn’t want to go.” However, Housing always respects the decision that the roommates have come to, and they will facilitate the move when space becomes available. Dunton says this is a last resort and that mediation is always tried first in hopes of resolving the conflict.
“Freshmen who are new to college are not used to sharing rooms and often have a hard time dealing with conflict. We think it’s important for them to learn these skills now, while they’re here. It’s important for them to learn how to come to peaceful resolutions in their future. We try to promote that.” To try to minimize conflict, Housing asks incoming freshmen a series of questions to try to match them with a compatible roommate. Are you messy or neat? When do you like to study and go to bed? What kind of music do you like? How late do you like to stay out? Etcetera. This can be a helpful way to prevent conflict, but it is not fool-proof. “These freshmen are transitioning and changing their habits from what they thought they were. Maybe you liked going to bed early at home, but you get here and you like to go out late. If you were compatible six months ago, that doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way,” says Dunton.