Sep 8, 2009

Avoiding unnecessary roommate conflict in the new semester

by Dena ten Pas

One of the biggest transitions in college is learning how to live with a stranger. This can be the start of amazing new friendships, but it can also create life-long enemies.

When conflicts between roommates arise, it is easy to simply ignore the problems that seem small, but ignoring small problems can cause even bigger problems in the future.

Roommates begin arguing for a variety of reasons, but whatever the circumstances, according to Resident Student Advocate Gabriel Wasson, it usually boils down to unmet expectations. Students come from a variety of backgrounds, which can sometimes cause friction when students from two vastly different backgrounds begin living together.

The Office of Student Leadership’s policy states that the student should first talk to the other student involved, and involve their resident assistant (RA) or spiritual life director (SLD) if the conflict remains unresolved. The policy references Philippians 2:3-4 for a student’s approach to dealing with conflict.

Wasson advises students to involve the Student Advocate Office after attempting to resolve the conflict on their own or with their RA. The Student Advocate Office is available to mediate conflicts and help end the dispute peacefully, according to Wasson.

“We advocate for the problem to help you find the resolution,” Wasson said.

The best time to deter potential conflict is at the beginning of the semester. Senior Anna Cribb, RA on Dorm 21, believes communication is the way to avoid conflict.

“When an issue comes up, talk about it and get those things out there,” Cribb said. “In any situation, everyone has to have the mindset that nobody is perfect.”

Respectful, courteous and considerate communication is the key to avoiding late-night yelling sessions.

“Don’t expect (your roommate) to understand right away,” Wasson said. “We encourage students to be a little gracious with one another.”

Lack of personal space, differing sleep patterns and sharing personal property lead the list of common roommate conflicts.
Wasson suggests talking about topics of potential conflict with roommates at the start of the year and drawing up a room contract. By talking about issues, such as what possessions can be shared and discussing expectations conflicts can be prevented.

“You can choose to work through any situation,” Cribb said.
Roommate conflicts cannot be avoided entirely, but by taking advantage of the resources available, students can keep arguments to a minimum.

A number of resources are available to help students deal with roommate disputes. The Student Advocate Office and Office of Student Leadership are ready to help and advise using Matthew 18:15-20 as a guideline for dealing with problems.

Contact Dena ten Pas at

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