For many incoming freshmen, the most exciting and daunting experience in college is living in the dorms. On the one hand, you get more freedom than ever before: No more curfews or questions about where you’re going and when you’ll be back. On the other hand, you are now living with a stranger. This is the real world and, with it, come rewards and drawbacks.
Living with another person in the same room can be taxing no matter how well you get along with them. The truth of the matter is that living in the dorms gives you little to no privacy. A typical dorm room will resemble something like a closet and sharing it with another person may seem like being asked to never change your underwear again: uncomfortable and even unhealthy.
The Lawn Mower
Many people are frightened by the fact that they are going to be living with a complete stranger, and it’s a legitimate fear. Roommate issues can be rough, but they are not unmanageable. One common problem that many students encounter is that their roommate snores at night. It may not seem like a big deal now but, trust me, when it’s 3 a.m. the night before an 8 a.m. final, it will seem bigger than the damn Titanic. The obvious solutions are to try earplugs (they work better than you would think) or turn on some relaxing music to try and drown out the noise. If this doesn’t work, confront your roommate about the problem. There are several solutions, such as nose strips, to help reduce the problem to at least a dull roar. If worse comes to worst, you may want to ask a friend to crash on their floor for a night or two. Most people are very understanding of this particular problem.
Another problem that many freshmen encounter is a messy or dirty roommate. Yet again, this may not sound like an issue now but even tolerant roommates lose their cool when that unfinished bowl of Easy Mac starts to mold. For all you neat freaks out there, you’re going to have to compromise. Odds are your random roommate is not going to be as neat as you are. And for those who don’t care that they haven’t seen their floor in two years because it’s covered in objects, be considerate of your roommate. Make the extra effort to pick your things up. Even if you’re not going to be best friends with your roommate, mutual respect can go a long way and will make things easier for everyone.
If things do get out of hand, talk to your roomie and ask them to clean up a bit. Most people will listen and be more considerate. If this doesn’t work, try bringing in a third party to get an outsider’s opinion of the situation, possibly a mutual friend or a Resident Advisor (RA). If they think that the room needs to be cleaned, then your roommate will probably be more inclined to tidy up. This issue doesn’t have to be a big deal if handled correctly. There is no need to draw a line through the middle of the room and pretend it’s a brick wall.
One issue that many people are reluctant to talk about is sex in the dorms. Whether or not you participate in this particular activity, it does occur. Sex is not illegal in dorm rooms, but it can create sticky situations if it isn’t handled properly. The most important thing to do here is be proactive. Don’t wait until you wake up to unpleasant noises coming from the bunk beside you. If you’re open about what you want or what your roommate wants, this can be a simple thing to get past. If you want to have someone over, tell your roommate in advance to see if he or she can stay with a friend for the night. Remember, if you comply when they ask you, you’re more likely to get them to return the favor later.
It’s a popular belief that simply leaving an article of clothing on the door handle is the universal code for “Please don’t come in right now,” but don’t make this assumption without clearing it first with your roommate. If the idea of your roommate having sex in your room is simply too much to handle, ask them if they could do it elsewhere and explain your discomfort. Although you may still have to compromise on this issue, a good set of ground rules is definitely the best way to go.
Thieves and Filchers
Last but not least is a more serious problem that, unfortunately, does occur: stealing. Anyone will tell you that, no matter how well you think you know your roommate, it is always best to keep valuables hidden or locked up just in case. But sometimes this isn’t enough and your roommate thinks the five-finger-discount applies to your belongings. If you suspect that this is happening, try confronting them first. Not only because you may be wrong and there is no need to falsely turn someone in for something they didn’t do, but this also points out to the roommate that you have noticed missing items and will not tolerate that from them.
If the problem persists, it’s time to get some authority involved. Your best choice is to go to your RA. They have the authority to question your roommate and get other authority figures involved. If you are not comfortable talking to your RA about it, Public Safety is just a phone call away (585-475-2853) and it is their job to protect you and your things. You can file a report with them for your missing things and also tell them that you may suspect your roommate of stealing. If it turns out that they are stealing from you, they will receive proper punishment and you will be allowed to move out into another room. Do not take matters into your own hands. It may seem like a good idea to steal back from them or give them a nice shiner, but that will only lump you in with them when it comes time to dish out the discipline.
Most importantly, don’t panic. It’s highly unlikely that all of these problems and others will happen to you. Yet you will undoubtedly run into one or two so, when the time comes, be prepared. Remember that your roommate is in the same boat as you; they are away from the comfort of home and may be just as uncomfortable as you are with their new living situation. Love them or hate them, you do have to live with them so be respectful. What goes around comes around, a phenomenon which doubles when you’re sharing a room that looks unfit for a dog.
For any kind of dispute resolution, visit RIT’s Ombuds Office in the SAU, rooms 1110 and 1114. More information can be found at