By Will Lanthier ‘18 / Champlain College News
Living with someone during college isn’t always easy. Dorm rooms get crowded, life gets stressful, and conflicts may arise. Sometimes situations that were working during the beginning of the year become more difficult as the year goes on. As cliché as it may sound, it is important to remember that you and your roommate will be constantly growing and changing during your time at school. It is perfectly normal to have the occasional dispute.
If there comes a point where you feel like something needs to be addressed, there can be many things done in order to resolve the issue in a mature, effective, and responsible way.
“It’s just about learning how to communicate, compromise and respect each other,” said Champlain College student Dakotah Patnode. Patnode is a junior, Early Childhood/Elementary Education major from Jericho, Vermont. She is spending her first semester as a resident assistant in Rowell Hall where she addresses co-ed residential disputes on a regular basis. “Open and honest communication is key to building a successful relationship,” she said. “Find out what’s important to the both of you. Talk about how you would like for you and your roommate(s) to communicate with each other, and how you would like certain things handled. Living with anyone can be stressful and knowing how the other person operates means that you can resolve conflicts before they grow into bigger problems.”
To help with this process, during the first three to five weeks of the school year, Champlain College resident assistants meet with their residents to help them engage in conversations about how they will live together successfully. At this time roommates construct a digital living agreement that documents a list of expectations. Even in the best of roommate situations, these mandatory documents can be essential when telling your roommate/best friend that they are the messiest person you have ever met. For instance, since it was previously agreed upon to always take the trash out after you put food scraps in it, it would be easier to enforce the situation knowing it was documented as a potential problem. Like any relationship, there will most likely come a time where these mutual agreements need to be revisited or altered.
As the Operations Manager for Residential Life on campus, Melody Brook and the rest of the Student Life team, strive to ensure that all students are in a safe and happy environment on campus. “If students are having conflicts, the first thing they should do is meet with the first-line: their resident assistant (RA). There is nothing wrong with going to your RA to revisit the roommate agreement; they are there to help,” Brook said. “Sometimes however, students haven’t formed a strong relationship with their RA, or maybe they just don’t feel comfortable talking to them about something specific. In this case, there are also peer advisors who can assist and guide students.”
Brook notes that if the problem escalates or finds no alleviation after talking to RAs or PAs, students are encouraged to meet with one of the six area coordinators on duty. Sometimes a voice from a third-party can help resolve a problem.
“Last, if things really aren’t working out I’m the last stop on the journey,” she said. Brook is responsible for organizing room assignments and handling matters of custodial and maintenance dealing with the residence halls. Brook explained that her first priority is to help resolve a problem before immediately splitting roommates up. It encourages personal growth to learn to live with another person before giving in and giving up; you learn your own core values and that not everyone else may share them. “Here I will talk to all parties involved to make sure I know if there is anything I can do to find a solution to the issue, she explains. “If not, I will put together a ‘Room Shopping Form,’ where the individuals are able to meet students in rooms with vacancies. The most important thing I stress is, you’re not shopping for a room, you’re shopping for a roommate.”
Unlike some schools, Champlain allows students to move around if needed during the year. Although it is not until spring that students have the opportunity to select their dorm and roommate for the upcoming fall semester. Through a lottery process, influenced by credit hours, students are put in a random order for housing selection. Although not everyone can have their first choice, every student has the opportunity to select where they want to be – and whom they’d like to be with. Lottery day has the potential to be Champlain’s very own version of The Hunger Games.
To avoid an awkward situation, talk to your roommate(s) about where you see each other in the future. Will you stay together? Will your triple have to split up? Is someone planning to move off campus and commute? It all goes back to communication – talk it out.
Whether you’re sharing a dorm, apartment or home, the lessons that come with living in a close space with someone can be valuable throughout the rest of your life. If there’s one thing to remember when dealing with any kind of roommate, it’s to always RESPECT that they live there with you. Stick with that, and these four discussions will fall into place naturally:
Except for the type-A neat freak, everyone has times where things can get a little messy. Sit down with your roommate and talk about what’s acceptable. Find a good balance between the both of you, and decide upon a set of ground rules for your living space. Also, pick your battles. Having to deal with the sight your roommate’s unmade bed is a lot more desirable than the smell of rotting food and dirty dishes.
We’re all at college to get an education, right? When it comes to hitting the books it is important to respect your roommate’s desire to study, but also their desire not to study. With different schedules and course loads, roommates have the potential to run into some problems. Come to a common understanding. Do study hours mean quiet hours? If your roommate is trying to sleep or involved in something else, perhaps the library or your dorm’s lounge is the better place to be.
Knowledge and permission are the two most important aspects of this rule. Both roommates should be involved with deciding if someone is allowed to spend the night. Are overnight visits only acceptable if one of the roommates isn’t there? Does your roommate’s guest sleep on the floor or can they use your bed if you’re gone? Deciding upon these things may seem awkward or unnecessary, but without voicing your opinion you could have a stranger sleeping in your bed.
It’s pretty simple – roommates should agree that one person’s sleep schedule shouldn’t affect the other’s. Odds are you’ll have different preferences about time, temperature and noise; just for starters. Everyone will have to deal with the occasional turning on of lights or slamming of the door; it’s inevitable. Just try your best to be respectful of your roommate.
You can’t expect a problem to fix itself on its own, and you can’t expect that the other person wants to be treated as you do. The more openly you can talk with your roommate the easier it will be to solve issues. Treat your roommate not the way you want to be treated, but how they wish to be treated.
For more information from residential life visit http://www.champlain.edu/current-students/residential-life/contact-residential-life