Whether you have had a roommate before or will be sharing a room for the first time, the information provided in this section can help you to prepare for a successful roommate relationship. In fact, the groundwork for a positive experience begins well before move-in day.
Many college students today have never had a roommate or shared a living space, and it is completely natural to be a bit nervous. Of course, some people may be more difficult to live with than others because of values, goals, or living habits that are different from your own. Many returning students will have the experience of living with a friend or roommate of their choosing, which presents a new set of challenges that can impact both the roommate relationship and the existing friendship. Not only must you must know yourself, your tendencies, and what you need in your living environment, but you must learn to effectively communicate this with your roommate(s) while also listening and adapting to their needs. The roommate relationship is very much about learning to be a good roommate.
While there are many sources of potential conflict between roommates (or even suite mates), a willingness to communicate is often the first step toward resolving many of these issues. Clear lines of communication can be established early- for new students often during the first contact in over the summer and for current students during the process of deciding to live together. Just remember that some level of conflict is healthy and that all new relationships go through a natural period of transition- weathering this transition together will ultimately strengthen the roommate relationship.
First-year students should expect to formally sit down and discuss their expectations for sharing a room and communicating with the roommate(s). This process will take place during the first few weeks of school through the orientation programs and meetings with the Resident Advisors. New students complete a roommate contract, which provides the opportunity to discuss and generally agree to what is appropriate for their living space. Below are some of the topics that new roommates should expect to discuss:
- Studying and Sleeping Habits (what are our schedules like? do we plan to study in the room?)
- Cleaning and Trash Removal (how important is a clean room? how often should garbage be taken out?)
- Visitation and Guests (how often will we have guests? should there be advance notice of overnight guests?)
- Utilization of Space (how should the room be set up? what is appropriate to put on the walls?)
- Sharing of Belongings (what items can be shared? are there any items we will buy together?)
- Noise and Electronics (at what times/volume can tv/stereo/etc be used? when is too late for phone calls?)
- Roommate Communication (how will we communicate when we have a concern?)
- Personal Beliefs, Values, Goals (what are your priorities at college? what things are important to you?)
- Individual Personalities (how do you react when you are angry? what annoys you most?)
- Behavioral Choices (how will you spend your free time? what do you plan to do on weekends?)
Once new students have a chance to adjust to their college schedule and get to know their roommate(s), these questions will be revisited and explored more deeply. Returning students are encouraged to complete roommate contracts as well- the discussion process is helpful for friends who might assume they know each other really well. Should concerns arise down the road, the roommate contract can serve as a mechanism for discussion, clarification, and compromise.
There are a number of ways that new roommates can establish effective communication. Below are some suggestions:
- Be flexible.
- Consider what is reasonable rather than what is ideal.
- Be willing to compromise, but be sure to assert your rights.
- Keep in mind what you value the most.
- Address situations as soon as they arise.
- Be honest about your feelings.
- Stay calm and choose your language wisely.
- Don't assume you know what the other person is thinking.
- Ask for clarification if you don't understand.
- Don't gossip or involve others unnecessarily- go directly to the source.
- Make eye contact and be respectful.
- Try to listen and understand the other person's perspective.
- Be fair and cooperative.
- Expect a successful resolution.
When direct conversation with your roommate(s) does not seem to be improving concerns within the room, your RA can help. RAs are trained in effective roommate communication and conflict resolution. They commonly act as mediators between roommates by providing an objective and impartial setting for residents to communicate and resolve their concerns. The goal of the mediation process is to open the lines of communication and create a positive living experience for both roommates. Please consider approaching your RA for help:
- When you feel intimidated and need a supportive environment to articulate your rights in the room.
- When you are such odds with your roommate(s) that you can't speak without fighting.
- When your roommate(s) refuse to recognize that their is a problem even though it is apparent to others.
- When a previously agreed upon solution is still not working after a period of time.
- When you are concerned about your own health or safety or that of your roommate(s).
- When you have continually tried to discuss the problem and can not reach a reasonable solution.
If you approach your RA, you can expect the first question to be "Have you already tried talking directly with your roommate(s) about your concern?" If you haven't done so, the RA can provide with helpful suggestions as to the best way to initiate this conversation. If you have spoken with your roommate(s) already, you can expect that your RA will spend some time getting both sides of the story. In many cases, both roommates are feeling tension and have independently voiced concerns to the RA. Once the RA understands your concerns, he/she will ask the roommates to sit down and talk with each other, listen, and reach an appropriate resolution. In some situations, the concern may be resolved in one brief meeting, other concerns may require additional time and dialogue. As appropriate, the RA may also refer the concern to the professional Residence Hall Director (RHD) for assistance in determining a resolution.
Residence Life strongly encourages students to actively solve problems and views changing rooms as a last resort once all other options have failed. In certain irreconcilable situations, the RHD may make the determination that the student who originated the complaint should be given the option to move rooms. The complainant would be given information regarding available housing alternatives and would be able to decide whether moving rooms would be the best resolution.
In order to accurately assess building occupancy, no room changes are permitted during the first two weeks of the fall or spring semesters. Situations other than roommate conflicts that may allow for a change of rooms include a room swap between students or a student pulling-in a new roommate to fill a vacancy. In the case that a vacancy exists, the remaining room resident(s) will be given a courtesy of one week to select a new roommate of their choice. After one week, the vacancy may be filled at any time as needed by Residence Life. Students must keep all room furnishings set and may not dissuade potential new roommates from moving in. All students involved in room changes must gain approval from their Residence Hall Director prior to moving. Students must also inform their roommate and RA. For additional information, please refer to both the Housing and Meal Plan Contract and the DeSales University Student Handbook.