When late September rolls in, it harkens the end of summer vacation and the start of a new fall quarter. There’s a buzz of excitement and anxiety — from seniors looking forward to graduation, to the myriad of freshmen and transfer students struggling to adapt to classes and college life in general. For new students in particular, living away from home for the first time can be overwhelming. Yet it is worthwhile; the best character-building experience in college is to live on-campus with your peers.
Of course, conflicts and tensions are bound to happen between new roommates. Housing particularly has a reputation for not addressing issues and being standoffish toward residents’ concerns and for only wanting our money, not caring to help alleviate the stresses that come with roommate clashes.
While Housing does initially address students’ concerns through efforts such as mediations, roommate contracts and conflict intake forms, the follow-up policy is atrocious for students whose situations continue and worsen after these initial steps fail. The fault lies mainly with how they train their resident advisors (RA), resulting in what I’ve found to be a mixed preparedness overall amongst RAs. Those who recognized a situation’s gravity would suggest which Housing paperwork I could file or even to contact the resident director. Others (the majority) would give “blanket” advice like counseling. They were at an utter loss about what other help could be provided for students who’ve tried those routes and were still in the same situation. This faulty follow-up system alienates students and keeps them from reporting their situations to Housing.
When students do pursue correcting their issue, the processing time can make students feel frustrated and can sometimes exacerbate the situation. Some would even say that Housing voluntarily ignores the reports unless students harass them with emails, phone calls and forceful demands to meet higher-ups in person. It is unfortunate that this is the only viable solution that distressed students have in order to attain a housing situation that is safe and not rife with tension. This further distances Housing and students from each other because neither group wants to have to go that far. This flaw creates the stereotype that Housing is standoffish and inherently greedy, that Housing doesn’t care about their students’ living condition concerns that much. All this could be avoided if the RAs — the frontline representatives for students — were trained to be more socially astute and perform more follow-up duties. Instead of students like me having to resort to disrupting Housing’s higher-ups who are honestly busy trying to complete their daily operations.
The sort of follow-up Housing could require its RAs to do is easy to implement. It could consist of check-in emails every so often, such as after a mediation, which may or may not have gone well. That extra communication shows effort and concern for the student that can be very reassuring. Little actions like that can show students that their voices are being heard instead of being seemingly ignored. Another is making it a requirement for residents in on-campus apartments to sign a roommate contract. In the residence halls, the roommate contract is required, but in the on-campus apartments, it isn’t. It could also be further required that students review their signed contract once a quarter or twice a year. These minor changes could prevent future tensions and eliminate the impression of the cold, uncaring Housing Department. For current students adjusting to their new environment, I encourage you to try talking to your RA and if you feel that things are serious enough, be persistent in talking to the Housing higher-ups. Otherwise, Housing’s policies will never change or improve. It’s just like the general opinion on voting — nothing will change unless you go out there and speak up about it.