Living in close quarters

Freshman roommates McKayla Douglas and Breanna Huxon know what it’s like to live together in a small space.

Moving in with a roommate can be an exciting, but unsettling experience depending upon roommate disputes. Blaze Witten, a Residential Assistant for the Living Learning Center at Washburn University expresses his personal experience as a bystander to resident complaints about roommates. 

“The biggest conflict[s] between roommates are either ‘I don’t want your boyfriend here all the time or I don’t want your girlfriend here all the time’ and from there it escalates into just the most simple things of ‘You stole my batteries,” said Witten.

Witten explains that the main cause of disputes between roommates is lack of communication; one person in a group living together may feel a certain way about a roommate and talk to another roommate about it rather than talking one-on-one with the person they are concerned with. 

Residential assistants take precautions to prevent any disputes and help alleviate lack of communication between roommates. One precaution they take is that they require students to fill out a roommate agreement form before the semester starts. This form asks various questions about a person’s preferences with other people when living together. 

“Anytime someone has a conflict, we pull out the roommate agreement and explain this is what they wrote down,” said Witten. Everyone has to okay the roommate agreement before they turn it into us. So, if someone’s not following the roommate agreement then we can either 1) make modifications so everybody can agree on it or 2) the other person needs to respect the roommate agreement.”

The second precaution they take is that they will sit with the residents while the two talk one-on-one with each other about their problems and serve as mediators when emotions become a problem during their conversation. If the problem gets solved, the students move on. But if it doesn’t, the RAs will bring their supervisor in for further assistance. 

Not all experiences with roommates are negative and frustrating; Jessup White, a Freshmen and Living Learning Center representative at Washburn has had a few bad experiences with roommates, but he has a more positive outlook toward them. 

White has had disputes with previous roommates over cleanliness. There would be complaints about odors, messes and picking up after each other. However, White and his roommates had strong communication between one another. They wouldn’t fight over who did or didn’t do what, they would speak to each other about it and solve the problem.

White explains that when moving into a dorm with someone with a new person it  may be an uneasy or nervous experience where not everyone will get along. It can be unnerving to move in with someone you just met. However, White perceives a roommate as, “someone you have to get to know. So, if you’re completely new, you already got someone to hang out with at first.” 

It helps to already have someone to connect with when familiarizing oneself with a university for the first time.

 “Not only do you have someone to speak with and hang out with, you also have someone who’s, always there checking on you”said Witten, “It’s nice to know that someone will always be there and have your back whenever something goes wrong or when you need help. It helps you to feel more secure with the environment you’re living in.”