Forget about the impossible advanced organic chemistry lab. For most new college students, adjusting to a roommate is one of the hardest issues they will face in their collegiate career. Whether a student goes potluck or arranges a roommate before arriving on campus, the adjustment is time-consuming for someone who has never had to share such a small living space.
Barbara Hawkins, the associate director for residential services, said she has been dealing with roommate situations for many years – both good and bad.
“If we have any problems, usually they stem from lifestyle choices that are in contrast with the roommates,” Hawkins said. “It could be that the personalities are totally different or that they are the same and they just irritate each other; whatever the problem is, we usually try to solve it for the better.”
When going potluck, the Froglife questionnaire computer match-up system helps to match up roommates of similar personality types. It includes information like hall choices, mutual roommate requests and expressed personal preferences such as smoking and sleeping schedules.
“The questionnaire is good for basic matchups but sometimes there are just situations that can’t be avoided,” Hawkins said.
The process of dealing with roommate conflicts can be very extensive, Hawkins said.
First, residents are advised to talk to their resident assistant, and if the problem can’t be solved, the student may request a room change.
Hawkins said she has not dealt with any serious roommate conflicts this year but has in the past.
“If something really serious comes up and the residential assistants can’t handle the situation, residential services or campus life will usually get involved,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins said all the RAs go through a course in training that deals with roommate conflict when they are preparing to take on the role of resident assistants.
“Finding the right combination in a roommate is very important to the college experience,” Hawkins said. “We take problems seriously and try to make things as comfortable as possible for the students.”
Sofia Rios, an RA in Colby Hall and a junior radio-TV-film major, said she has not had many roommate conflicts this year but has had to play referee between residents in the past.
“I think it works out well when the girls are both willing to listen to each other,” Rios said. “When I am mediating residents, it is always important to stay neutral and listen to what each resident has to say.”
As an RA, Rios also had a roommate earlier this year.
“She wasn’t expecting to have a roommate that was an RA at first, but when she realized that I wasn’t going to be completely crazy about everything she did, we got along great,” Rios said. “We can still even talk today about any kind of issues we are both having.”
Skylar Brogdon, a freshman broadcast journalism major, said she has just begun to get to the comfortable stage with her roommate.
“We are finally at that point when we are breaking down all the barriers,” Brogdon said. “She has been great. Our personalities are alike in some ways but different in others. I think it just takes time to get to know someone.”
Brogdon said if she ever had any serious roommate conflicts, she would be willing to talk it out with her RA or in a mentoring session.
“One issue we had is that I am a little bit messy, but we are working through it,” Brogdon said. “I think as a college student you just have to get used to having a roommate.”
Lacie Lee, a freshman early childhood education major, said she went potluck with her roommate and would recommend it to incoming freshman.
“I think it’s a great way to get to know different people,” Lee said.
One issue in the rearrangement of roommates came up this semester with Lee and her roommate.
“There were some girls in my hall who were having problems and wanted to move,” Lee said. “We had all agreed to the move and (to) switch roommates, but they ended up working out their problems.”
This can happen in halls, Hawkins said.
“If there is a set of rooms who would like to switch roommates its fine just as long as all the roommates agree to the move,” Hawkins said.
Not only can RAs be of help to residents when dealing with conflict, but also there is a program on campus called the Conflict Resolution Process that deals with all kinds of conflicts on campus. Whether the conflict is roommate based or a different situation, the program in human resources strives to help people of the TCU community live together in harmony.
Sharon Barnes, TCU’s conflict resolution facilitator, is the head of the program and has seen the mediation process help many people on campus.
“Right now we have mainly professors on campus that are trained mentors by the state of Texas that can help students with roommate problems on campus,” Barnes said. “To become a licensed mentor, they all go through a 40-hour training course that walks them through how to deal with different scenarios.”
Barnes said to schedule a mentoring session, students must first sign a confidentiality contract stating that they are willing to begin sessions and understand that all information disclosed will not be open to the public.
“After the students decide to begin sessions they can choose their two mediators,” Barnes said. “They are given the list and can see if any of the mentors are their professors or someone they might know and wouldn’t want as a mentor.”
The meeting is then set up at a location on campus, and guide rules for the session are set up by the mediators and students.
“The mediator’s main goal in the situation is to guide the conversation to an agreed resolution in the end,” Barnes said. “When it is over, the students sign a contract on what they have agreed upon.”
Barnes said the process can sometimes be very lengthy.
“I once mediated a group session that lasted 11 hours,” Barnes said. “When dealing with something that is eating you up inside all day, like a roommate conflict, it doesn’t matter how long it takes to hash it out, just as long as you come to an agreed resolution – in the end it saves more time.”
Currently the program only has mentors that are professors, but Barnes said they would like to get more student mentors involved.
The training course will be offered as an extended education training course during the month of January, and a communication studies three hour credit class in the spring semester.
Choosing a roommate during the new college experience is something that can be difficult, easy or even fun. Making changes to adapt to others’ lifestyles is what can be the hardest, but overall it becomes a total learning experience for many.