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Successfully Living With Your Roommate

Like all relationships, living with a roommate takes a certain degree of effort and isn't always easy. Considering that this may be the first time you've ever shared a room with another, a conversation about your needs and intentions is crucial to your relationship's ultimate success.

We've made this process easy by providing common conversation points in the form of a roommate contract. Your Community Adviser (CA) will assist you in the process of filling it out soon after your arrival on campus. If both or all roommates are candid and sincere, many future misunderstandings and conflicts can be prevented by use of this tool.

You can reference your original responses at anytime by contacting your CA. If you and your roommate(s) wish to change your responses, your CA can assist you in amending your contract at any time.

Resident's Basic Rights

It's important to recognize that each of you has basic rights.  These include:

  1. The right to read and study free from undue inferences in one's room. Unreasonable noise or other distractions inhibit the exercise of this right.
  2. The right to sleep without undue disturbance from noise; the guest of a roommate, etc.
  3. The right to expect that a roommate will respect one's personal possessions.
  4. The right to a clean living environment.
  5. The right to free access to one's room and facilities without pressure from a roommate.
  6. The right to privacy.
  7. The right to host guests during visitation hours as long as they respect the rights of the host's roommate and all other hall residents. This includes the roommate's right to deny access to a visitor (the dissenting roommate's rights always prevail).
  8. The right for redress of grievances. Residential Life staff members are available to assist in settling conflicts.
  9. The right to be free from fear or intimidation, physical and/or emotional harm.
  10. The right to expect reasonable cooperation in the use of "room-shared" appliances, such as telephone or refrigerator, and a commitment to honor agreed-upon use and payment procedures.
  11. The right to be free from peer pressure or ridicule regarding abstinence of alcoholic beverages or drugs.
  12. The right to a smoke-free environment.

Changing Your Thinking and Attitude Can Make All the Difference!

Living in a college community is significantly different than living at home. You will encounter different lifestyles, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors--many of which you haven't experienced before. It's normal to feel some discomfort initially, but by embracing the time-honored tips below, you'll find that even the most difficult obstacles in roommate relationships (and even your other relationships) can be surmounted.

Accept Differences
Roommates do not have to approve of each other's lifestyle to get along. Challenge your old values and beliefs and think of this as an important learning experience. The lessons others teach you can be more profound than what you will encounter in the classroom.

Be Honest But Tactful
When a problem develops share your honest feelings as soon as possible. Sometimes students think that being candid will hurt their roommate's feelings or even completely alienate them. On the other hand, when a situation is allowed to fester, far worse consequences may be in store down the road. Whenever you're uncertain about how to proceed, your CA can help.

Be Realistic and Patient
Remember that developing a relationship takes time. It will not happen overnight. And even with the best-intended efforts, you and your roommate may never be the best of friends. Understanding that you don't have to be takes a lot of pressure off. Coexisting in a courteous manner can still produce a very comfortable living environment. Surprisingly, this approach can often lead to a closer relationship.

Confront Negative Behaviors
So your roommate borrowed your favorite jeans without your permission. Issues like this and others that arouse your concern shouldn't be ignored. By saying nothing, you give your silent approval for this behavior to continue. Try discussing the situation in a nonjudgmental manner and work toward a win-win solution. If this fails, CAs are trained to assist in conflict mediation.

Discuss Expectations Early
It's important to discuss the rules of the room including cleaning schedules, bedtimes, noise levels, visitation, room modifications, sharing appliances, etc. An easy way to do this is to utilize the roommate contract, which your CA will be discussing with all residents during the first few days of the new term.

Learn How to Live Independently
Many students think that because they are roommates, they must spend all their time together. This can be a quick route to boredom and frustration. Expand your horizons and give each other space so that the times you do spend together are welcomed!

Reverse the View
In most situations, it's possible to have multiple viewpoints. Try to look at your conflict from your roommate's perspective. Taking the time to acknowledge another's position and feelings can foster the communication as well as resolution process.

Keep the Conversation Future-Focused
Don't try to start a conversation that is focused on placing blame; this won't fix anything and encourages defensiveness.  Rather, try this tried and true technique: "When you ___, I feel ___; I need for you to ___ to get things back on track."

When Your Efforts Just Aren't Enough

Don't despair, some conflicts can be challenging. In these situations, contact your Community Adviser for advice and assistance. And don't delay, as uncomfortable situations can quickly become overwhelming and, depending upon the time of the academic year, can be more difficult to quickly resolve.

Should I Move?

Some roommate pairings just don't work out. In other cases, perhaps you've found someone more compatible. In either case, if you're thinking about moving, you should keep the following schedule in mind:

Open Room-Change Period: Weeks 2-3 of each term
During this time you can move to any open bed you are eligible for, as long as you get advance permission from your Area Coordinator (AC) and move before the end of week three of each term. If you're not sure about where to move, he/she can provide that assistance as well.

Restricted Room-Change Period: Weeks 4-9 of each term
While room changes can happen during this time, generally your CA and possibly your AC will attempt to assist you with a formal mediation first. This is not meant to make your life more difficult, but rather can be an effective way to teach effective conflict resolution skills, which you'll find helpful in many future life circumstances. Intervention varies from situation to situation and is typically of short duration. However, you should bear in mind that in some irresolvable circumstances, sometimes moves aren't immediately possible or feasible depending on how many open beds are actually available.

Need Additonal Help?

The staff members listed below are available for advice and assistance regarding roommate issues:
Your Community Adviser (CA) 
Your Assistant Residence Director (ARD)
Your Area Coordinator (AC)
The Office of Residential Life (309-794-2686)
The Dean of Students Office (309-794-7533)
The Counseling Center (309-794-7357)