The trouble with roommates

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February 2, 2010

1:18 AM

The College of William and Mary prides itself on having a meticulous room selection process. We are told that a lot of time is spent tediously sorting, matching and anticipating amicable room assignments. From an outsider’s point of view, one might think Residence Life puts forth every effort to place incoming students with people who stand on somewhat common ground. From an insider’s view, it’s obvious that the opposite occurs. While there’s nothing wrong with expanding personal views, keeping an open mind, or slightly blending the political divide, having to live with someone who believes and stands for everything the other despises is a nightmarish and totally undesirable situation.

The College’s not-so-extensive room selection process serves to emphasize its desire for diversity. This inexplicable need for interaction causes a passive, independent thinker with ultra-liberal tendencies from the Washington, D.C. area to be placed in a 10-by-12 room with a cadet from the farms of Maryland with Sarah Palin ideals.

Honoring a student’s roommate preference is vital to creating a productive living situation. Unfortunately, the College’s basic and inadequate pairing system consists of four irrelevant questions, which leaves ResLife with virtually meaningless information and gives no insight on the true personalities and habits of the incoming students.

The continuation of the current room assignment process will ultimately lead to dissatisfied, emotionally distraught students forced to seek immediate recourse in the form of a room switch, a task that ResLife seems to be unable to handle. Similarly, academically challenged students — with more pressing priorities than to unwillingly accost reluctant peers — have few places to turn for solace. Unless a student can find someone else in their dorm to switch rooms with, their fate is in the hands of ResLife. Even if a room change is initiated, students are thrown back into the same muddled process that left him or her with an incompatible roommate in the first place.

Moreover, scheduling conflicts may be more troublesome than personality issues. The College’s quest for campus-wide unity catalyzes roommate wars. Monroe Scholars are immune to the contagiousness of diversity and are comfortably confined to one living space, just athletes are often preferentially roomed together. Meanwhile, the College insists on assimilating the most intrusive of roommates — those in ROTC — among other students, even though a cadet’s schedule can seem disruptive to those in the civilian population. Even if the College ignores personality and values in assigning roommates, at the very least they should consider that students on similar schedules will make more amicable roommates. A studious and well-disciplined student has the right not to be awakened at 5 a.m.

Commonalities should be honored rather than neglected, and special students should be partnered with those of a similar disposition. This is not to say that students who are different should be segregated, but merely that the College should assume that not all students will get along. A more intensive questionnaire inquiring about the kind of person one wishes to live with would produce happier students and ultimately reduce the amount of time spent on reorganizing dorm assignments.

E-mail Victoria Narine at [email protected]

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