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Welcome to the Roommate Relationship training module brought to you by Reslife.Net. To advance the module, use your mouse and click on the individual screens in this presentation. We hope this tool is helpful to you in understanding the typical


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Title: Welcome to the Roommate Relationship training module brought to you by Reslife.Net. To advance the module, use your mouse and click on the individual screens in this presentation. We hope this tool is helpful to you in understanding the typical

Welcome to the Roommate Relationship training
module brought to you by Reslife.Net. To advance
the module, use your mouse and click on the
individual screens in this presentation. We
hope this tool is helpful to you in understanding
the typical university response to a roommate
conflict, as well as how to help your student
establish positive roommate relationships.This
is only one of many resources available to you.
For more personal assistance, please contact your
housing and residence life office directly.
Typical University Responses to a Roommate
Conflict and How to Help Your Student
  • By Jody Donovan, Director of Student Transitions
  • and Parent Family Programs, Colorado State

Brought to you by Reslife.Net, Ltd. as a part
of The Roommate Resource Service
Roommate conflicts are stressful for your
student, for you as a parent, and also for the
university staff that are involved in helping
your student resolve their conflict.
Roommate Conflicts A Primer for Parents
  • This module will provide information about
  • How to help your student minimize roommate
  • How to support your student during a roommate
  • Typical college and university responses to
    roommate conflicts

Why are Roommate Experiences Important?
  • Although living with a stranger may be at times
    challenging for your studentit also provides
    terrific opportunities to learn and acquire life
    long skills that relate to

Learning to become a good roommate serves as a
basis for becoming a good friend, co-worker,
neighbor and spouse.Living with roommates
teaches your student that within every
relationship, there are always multiple truths
and perceptions of reality...
If your student experiences a roommate conflict
understand that their perceptions on the conflict
can be very different than the perspective of
their roommate, which is one of the reasons why
roommate conflicts are often very difficult to
Consider Bob and Mike, who are new roommates
  • A couple of weeks after move-in Mike goes to
    brush his teeth and realizes he is out of
    toothpaste. Bobs toothbrush and toothpaste are
    nicely stacked in their usual place on the
  • Mike shares a bathroom at home with other
    siblings and everyone shares, no problem, so he
    borrows some paste from Bob and sets the tube
    back down on the counter, expecting to pick up a
    new tube for himself later.

That evening
Bob goes to brush his teeth. He notices
that his toothbrush is not where he left it and
the toothpaste tube is not rolled up tightly the
way he left it that morning. Someone has been
using my toothpaste! It had to be Mike, but
why would he touch my stuff? Bob begins to
wonder what other belongings he has that Mike is
borrowing. Is Mike to cheap to buy his own
stuff? Did he use my toothbrush too! Bob is
frustrated but he decides not to ask Mike.
Instead, he moves his toothbrush and toothpaste
to the shelf inside his closet.
The next morning
  • Mike is back to brush his teeth but he never
    got the chance to stop and buy a new tube of
    paste. He reaches to borrow Bobs again, but
    its not there. Where did it go? Why would
    Bob move it? The thought strikes him did he
    move it because I used it yesterday? That must
    be it. What a cheapskate! Every time he wants
    to play my Xbox or watch a movie on my VCR, I
    dont even question it. Mike decides to
    investigate further. He opens Bobs closet door
    and sees the toothpaste. That jerk! Ill
    show him. Mike leaves Bobs toothpaste alone
    but goes next door to see if he can borrow some
    from one of the other guys on the corridor. He
    tells the guys next door how cheap his roommate
    is, and how Bob hid his toothpaste from him.
    After he brushes his teeth, he returns to the
    room and disconnects the wires for his Xbox and
    VCR, and places them in his own closet.

A little later
  • Bob comes back from class. He sees Mike
    talking to the guys in the next room. They look
    at him and laugh, and then duck into their room.
    Bob goes into his own room wondering what is
    going on. He decides to take a break and watch
    the end of the movie he fell asleep watching last
    night. He notices Mike has removed the Tape from
    the VCR and he picks it up and tries to start the
    tape. It does not seem to be working. He looks
    to see if it is connected, and notices that some
    of the wires are missing. Mike walks in, he
    looks annoyed. Bob is still mad at him about the
    toothpaste incident so he does not say hello.
    Mike does not speak either. The silence makes
    both of them more annoyed at one another and so
    Bob takes his tape and goes down the hall to
    another friends room to visit. He sees the guys
    next door they still seem to be laughing about

Over the next few weeks
  • The tension in the room has grown pretty
    heavy. Bob and Mike are both stompin mad, and
    hardly talk to one another. They both seem to be
    doing things to annoy the other and they are both
    talking to other friends on their residence hall
    floor about what a jerk their roommate is. When
    Bobs girlfriend comes to visit for the weekend,
    Mike is not very friendly to her and after she
    leaves, Bob decides he has had enough. Bob calls
    his parents. He has been telling them already
    all the rude things that Mike is doing. He tells
    them Mike is using his personal belongings,
    refusing to share items in the room that they had
    agreed to use jointly when they moved in, like
    the VCR, and that Mike is spreading nasty stories
    about him to the other students on the floor.
    The situation has become unbearable and Bob asks
    his parents for help.

If you are Bobs parents, what are you going to
  • Call the university and demand that Mike be
  • Call and demand that Bob be moved?
  • Did this really start over a simple tube of

Yesbelieve it or not, roommate conflicts start
over things like this all the time
Roommate conflicts negatively impact a students
ability to adjust to life in the residence hall
and campus, which is why they should be avoided
if at all possible. The good news is that
there are things that you can do to help your
student maximize success and live compatibly with
a roommate. Lets spend some time thinking about
these things
Supporting the Development of Positive Roommate
The good news is that as a parent you can support
the development of a positive roommate
relationship for your student. The best part
isyou can help before the toothpaste is
squeezed out of the tube!
  • If your university has encouraged you to
    review this module prior to the start of the
    academic year, encourage your student to spend
    time getting to know their roommate over the
    summer through visits, e-mail, phone calls, and
    instant messaging.

  • Help your student think in terms of the
    issues that are important to them in their
    roommate relationship and their living situation.
  • It is important that your student process
    and understand the things about their roommate
    relationship that might be non-negotiable.
    These are things that will never be okay in the
    relationship verses things that might be open for
  • A solid understanding of this information
    will assist your student when having discussions
    with their roommate about how they will live
    together successfully.

  • If the academic year has already begun,
    encourage your student to spend time with their
    roommate in and out of the room, discussing
    backgrounds, hobbies, likes, dislikes,
    relationship expectations, as well as their
    hopes, dreams, and fears about their college
  • Through dialogue your student and their
    roommate will begin to build common ground for
    their similarities. A good understanding of
    similarities will help the roommates more
    successfully manage the areas where they differ.
  • If Mike and Bob had spent a little more time
    getting to know one another, Mike might have
    known to leave Bob a note when he used his
    toothpaste, or Bob might have felt more
    comfortable confronting Mike about it, without
    worrying about rocking the boat.

Keep things in perspective and do not escalate
the conflict. It is very difficult as a parent to
receive the news that your student is having
problems with their roommate. You need to
empathize with their situation, while keeping in
mind that you are only getting one side of the
story in regards to the conflict (and there is
another parent out there potentially getting an
earful about your student!). As negative as the
conflict may be, there is a silver liningyour
student will be challenged to grow and develop as
a result of this experience. Encourage them in a
positive way, but balance this with not
escalating the situation. Encourage them to
begin the process of looking at the situation
from the perspective of their roommate.
  • Listen, Listen, Listen! Ask thoughtful
    questions to allow your student to come to their
    own solutions.
  • As a parent, it is possible to be too
    interested in solving the problems of your
    student. As opposed to giving advice on what you
    would do, encourage your student to brainstorm
    potential solutions to their problem, and help
    them determine appropriate courses of action that
    they can take to resolve the problem.

  • Be positive and convey your belief that things
    will be resolved eventually.
  • Your student may be highly emotionally charged
    and upset by the conflict that they are
    experiencing. Be a constant reassuring voice
    that communicates the eventual resolution of the
    conflict. Although a distraction and annoyance,
    a roommate conflict is not a life or death
    situation, although they can create high levels
    of stress and anxiety.

  • Share your own experiences about conflict and how
    you successfully navigated differences
  • It is good for your student to hear from you
    about how you have experienced conflicts (perhaps
    roommate or other), and what you did to resolve
    the conflict. Share your life experiences if
    they can help your student with perspective and
    gaining information to help resolve the conflict,
    but balance this with an understanding that the
    discussion is about your student, not you.

Proactively encourage your student to establish
a formalized agreement with their roommate. Most
colleges and universities provide these forms to
residents, and encourage them to fill the form
out at the start of the academic year. The
roommate agreement formalizes the expectations
that roommates have for each other, as
expectations are discussed and placed in writing.
These roommate agreements hold students
accountable for themselves, each other, and their
guests.This is an important process for
proactively establishing positive roommate
relations, and it should be done as early in the
semester as is possible.Feel free to discuss
this process with your school administrator.
More on roommate agreements later
Direct your student to his or her resident
assistant (RA) as issues can be addressed more
quickly if the RA is notified right away. The
resident assistant (RA) is a student as well, who
has been specially selected and trained to assist
your student with issues related to on-campus
living. The RA is the first line of intervention
in a roommate conflict, and your student should
speak with the RA directly if they are
experiencing problems with their roommate.
  • More about the RA
  • Typical RA Responsibilities
  • Role model
  • Resource and referral source
  • Friend guide
  • Ears eyes for the professional residence hall
  • Policy enforcer
  • Community builder
  • RAs are typically one or two years older than
    their residents, and full-time students. They
    cannot solve problems, but they can help students
    solve their own problems.

The Importance of Assertive Communication
When involved in a conflict, roommates can
respond assertively, aggressively, and passively.
It is important to discourage non-assertive and
aggressive behaviors if your student calls to
discuss a roommate conflict with you. Lets
spend some time exploring these responses in more
Sometimes students are passive-aggressive
Talking to friends and floor-mates about the
problem, rather than with the roommate Exaggeratin
g the problem Being deceptive or
two-faced Being manipulative toward the
roommate Communicating indirectly rather than
directly Characterized by steel knuckles inside
a velvet glove
The telling of stories
  • Sometimes students are aggressive in roommate
  • Violating each others rights
  • Humiliating each other
  • Putting each other down
  • Being abusive emotionally or verbally
  • Dominating each other
  • Inflicting deliberate harm on each other
  • Enhancing oneself at the expense of the other

  • Or passive
  • Self-denying
  • Acting as a doormat
  • Being emotionally dishonest with oneself
  • Being inhibited
  • Allowing others to choose for oneself
  • Allowing ones rights to be violated

It is easy to think that your student would never
respond in the ways I just describedbut you need
to be aware of the possibility they might.
Sometimes what students tell their parents is
very different than the reality of the situation,
and when this happens it creates a situation
where the student is telling their parents one
thing and university administrators another.
As a parent, you should encourage your student to
use assertive communication, the best strategy
for effective communication.
  • Encourage Assertive Communication
  • During roommate conflicts, it is critical
    that both roommates communicate assertively,
    stating their concerns as well as their
    suggestions for collaborating toward a mutually
    acceptable solution.
  • Being Assertive means
  • Making ones own choices
  • Being honest
  • Taking responsibility for oneself
  • Standing up for oneself
  • Asking for what one wants
  • Caring about oneself as well as caring for others

The Roommate Agreement Process
  • As part of their standard operating procedures,
    many housing programs require students to
    establish formalized roommate agreements, that
    outline how students will live agreeably
  • This process may be facilitated by the resident
    assistant (RA), and usually happens at the very
    start of the academic year.

How does the roommate agreement process
work?The process is facilitated by the floor
resident assistant, typically at the start of the
academic year and sometimes discussed at the
first floor meetingRoommates discuss topics by
sharing opinions and listening to each others
preferencesRoommates find common ground - the
area for agreement through negotiationRoommates
discuss how they will communicate concerns to
each other regarding unacceptable behavior in the
roomRoommates set a trial period and a day/time
for revisiting the agreement to make changes
As part of the roommate agreement process, your
student should discuss the following issues with
their roommate.
  • Academic goals
  • Roommate relationship expectations
  • Studying in the room
  • Socializing in the room
  • Use of space in the room
  • Sleeping waking rituals
  • Sharing purchased food supplies
  • Cleanliness of the room
  • Music tastes
  • Financial responsibilities
  • Privacy within the room
  • Guests in the room
  • Sharing belongings
  • Time spent together

After the roommate agreement is established
  • Encourage your student to communicate any
    concerns that they may be having with their
    roommate right away. Even if problems are minor,
    they need to be addressed right away to keep them
    from escalating. Consider how differently Mike
    and Bobs situation might have been if they had
    talked about it that first day.
  • Encourage your student to use the 5-year rule in
    5 years, will this really matter? If not,
    encourage your student to let it go. This may
    seem contradictory, but it works! Decide what is
    important and focus on that. Even if something
    seems small, it can be a source of irritation
    that grows over time. Or, perhaps it can be
    ignored and forgotten, if put in perspective.
    For both Mike and Bob, if either of them could
    have let the matter go after the first slight,
    without taking further steps against their
    roommate, the problem would most likely have
    passed and not escalated.

When conflict happens
Lets start out with a definition of conflict
  • Conflict is a condition that exists when two
    or more people express incompatible ideas or have
    goals that are not mutually supportive.

Although your student experiences a degree of
stress when involved with conflict...it is a
daily reality that is experienced at home, at
work, while driving, while with friends, with
family, and with oneself.
Sources of Conflict
  • Differences over perceptions of reality
  • Differences over facts
  • Differences over goals
  • Differences over methods
  • Differences over values
  • Communication misunderstandings, nonverbal
  • Personal behavior or idiosyncrasies

There are important rights that need to be
acknowledged in a roommate conflict. If involved
in a conflict, your student, and their roommate,
has the following rights
  • The right to ask for what one wants
  • The right to change ones mind
  • The right to say no without feeling guilty
  • The right to be listened to and to be taken
  • The right to be treated with respect

Housing staff walk a fine line in working to
balance the rights of both roommates. As a
parent you feel concerned when your student is
involved in a conflict, and it may be easy to
become emotionally involved in both your
perceptions on the conflict and your desired
outcome.Keep in mind that both your student and
their roommate will have rights, and that the
housing staff who are working to resolve the
conflict will be working to maintain the rights
of all parties concerned.
Negotiating Through Conflict
  • There are several strategies one can employ to
    successfully deal with conflict.
  • The following is a strategy used by numerous
    housing professionals across the nation and can
    be adapted for use in nearly any conflict

Interest Based Negotiation for Resolving Conflict
Step One
  • Separate the people from the problem
  • By focusing on the issues rather than each other,
  • can work through their disagreement without
    damaging their
  • relationship. Encourage them to think of each
    other as
  • partners in negotiation, agreeing to some ground
    rules prior
  • to beginning, and respecting one another by
    asking for a time
  • out if emotions get hot.
  • Fisher, R. , Ury, W., Patton, B. (1991) Getting
    to Yes. New York Penguin Books.

Step Two
  • Focus on interests, not positions
  • A position is something you have decided upon.
    Your interests are what
  • caused you to so decide, according to Fisher and
    Ury, authors of Getting
  • to Yes (1991, p. 42). Usually at least one person
    loses when people
  • focus on positions rather than interests (and
    often both lose!).
  • Encourage roommates to identify their interests
    and work to understand each
  • others motivations clearly. If they look
    forward to desired solutions rather than
  • focusing on past events, they are more apt to
    create multiple solutions that
  • benefit both parties.
  • Fisher, R. , Ury, W., Patton, B. (1991) Getting
    to Yes. New York Penguin Books.

Step Three
Invent Options for Mutual Gain This is the
brainstorming phase for roommates and it is
important to remember that evaluation comes
later. By focusing on shared interests, they can
avoid win-lose options. Creativity is rewarded as
roommates make proposals that may be appealing to
the other person and hold limited negative
impacts for oneself. Fisher, R. , Ury, W.,
Patton, B. (1991) Getting to Yes. New York
Penguin Books.
Step Four
  • Use Objective Criteria for Evaluation
  • If the solutions are not balanced, it may be
    helpful to seek
  • objective criteria from a mutually agreed upon
    expert or
  • source (a policy or law, the resident assistant,
  • Encourage your student to make the agreement
  • and measurable, to keep an open mind, and be
  • reasonable when considering options.
  • Fisher, R. , Ury, W., Patton, B. (1991) Getting
    to Yes. New York Penguin Books.

Tips for Dealing with Conflicts
Tip One...
Recognize that this is your students problem,
not your problem to solvestudents learn
assertiveness, communication, and problem solving
skills if they work through the problem rather
than being rescued! As a parent you may want to
help your student by solving the problem for
them. Hopefully youve sent your student to
college for them to learn and grow as a person by
learning life skills in addition to their
academic learning. Conflict is an inevitable
occurrence in life and to be successful your
student needs to know how to navigate it
successfully once it occurs.
Negotiating Through Conflict
Tip Two...
Negotiating Through Conflict
Help your student understand that there are
multiple perceptions of reality and all may
contain elements of the truth. Encourage them
to be open to the perspective of their roommate,
negotiation and compromise, and working towards a
fair, successful, and equitable resolution to the
Old woman? Young Girl? What do you see?
Tip Three...
Negotiating Through Conflict
  • Help your student acknowledge his or her own role
    in the conflict.
  • It is highly unlikely that your student will be a
    totally innocent victim in the roommate conflict.
    It usually takes two to have a disagreement, so
    help your student reflect on their behaviors,
    attitudes, and perceptions that may have
    contributed to the conflict. They dont have to
    take full responsibility, but it may be helpful
    for them to identify areas for change that may
    lead to a resolution.

Tip Four...
Negotiating Through Conflict
Help your student brainstorm options for
resolution because sometimes it is hard to think
about multiple solutions when they are too
closely involved. Coming to a successful
resolution of a conflict requires compromise on
the parts of all concerned. It is helpful to go
into a roommate problem negotiation with many
ideas verses few, and it will allow for more
dialogue and options for meeting the needs of
both your student and their roommate.
Typical University Responses to a Roommate
  • Roommate conflicts are best handled at the lowest
    possible levelthe RA, or the residence hall
    director, who could be a bachelors or masters
    degree level staff member who has overall
    supervisory responsibility for your students
    residence hall and supervising the building RAs.
  • If you hear from your student and call the
    Presidents Office, the situation is immediately
    escalated and becomes more difficult to resolve.

Calling the President's office...
Never a good idea...
Roommate Conflicts within the first two weeks
  • Unless the situation involves a health or
    safety issue, most colleges and universities are
    unwilling to split up roommates in the first two
    weeks, or perhaps longer depending on their
  • This allows for roommates to get beyond
    superficial first impressions and unfounded
    biases to learn how to get along with people who
    are different from them.

When a roommate conflict is reported
  • The RA will first spend time visiting with
    each roommate individually to assess the
    situation and hear the varying perspectives
    regarding the roommate conflict. The RA will
    often share this information with their
    supervisor, the residence hall director to
    discuss next steps.

Very few roommate conflicts occur between an
evil student and an angelic studentmore
frequently, both parties share some role in the
conflict. The RA seeks to learn this information
from both roommates.
Completing the Roommate
  • If the roommates have not completed a roommate
    agreement, the RA may suggest that they discuss
    their specific roommate problem in the context of
    completing a roommate agreement listing common
    areas for disagreement between roommates. The RA
    may then facilitate a discussion about the
    roommate agreement, seeking long-term resolution.

Revisiting the Roommate
  • If the roommates have already completed the
    roommate agreement, the RA will facilitate a
    discussion regarding whether the agreement is
    still valid, areas for revision, and sources of
    current conflicts as well as possible resolutions.

This is the time for assertive communication!
Students will have an opportunity to share
their stories and to brainstorm options for
resolution. It is crucial for students to be
honest, direct, and flexible during this time to
reach a mutually agreeable solution, and you need
to encourage your student to do this.
  • The Value of the 3rd Alternative
  • Rather than viewing the solution as benefiting
    either one roommate or the other, it is helpful
    to think about the 3rd alternativea mutually
    beneficial solution.

A new roommate agreement is reached
  • The RA will document the various areas that
    have been discussed, as well as the solutions to
    the problems. Roommates will sign the agreement
    acknowledging their willingness to abide by, as
    well as hold each other accountable for, the
    agreement. A date to revisit the agreement is
    established. Copies of the agreement are given to
    each roommate and kept on file for future

If the new agreement is breached
  • When the RA is informed that the agreement is
    not working between the roommates, he or she may
    try to facilitate another conversation, or may
    ask the residence hall director for assistance in
    mediating the ongoing roommate dispute.

Hall Director Intervention
  • If the roommate conflict rises to the level of
    the residence hall director, a new option for
    resolution existssplitting up the roommate pair
    through a room change.
  • The hall director will often hold a roommate
    mediation session with the roommate pair to
    assess the potential for resolution prior to
    suggesting a room change.

About Room Changes
  • Options to determine who moves
  • The best option is for the roommates to decide

  • However, when
    that fails, the following options exist
  • Deposit dates (earliest gets to stay)
  • Flipping a coin, drawing straws, picking a number
  • Deciding who is most desperate to get out of the
  • If a decision cannot be made, in some instances
    both roommates will be required to move.
  • Splitting up may be the best solution,
    however, it is often difficult to determine who
    should move to the new room and who shall remain
    in the current room. In most roommate conflicts,
    no one is willing to move

After the decision has been made
  • More than likely, two options exist here
    depending on housing policy.
  • Students may be provided with a list of
    students looking for potential roommates in their
    residence hall as well as throughout the
    residence hall system
  • Or
  • Students will be given a new room assignment
    by the housing office.

Students are then given a specific time period
during which they are to complete the move. This
can range from a weekend to a few weeks.
This can be a very stressful time!
  • Parents and families can support their students
    during this time by
  • Helping them move to their new room
  • Helping them put this experience into
    perspectivethey will move many times throughout
    their livesrarely with such few belongings!

Avoiding another roommate conflict
  • The RA and residence hall director most likely
    will work with both roommates to reflect on what
    happened and what could have been done
    differently to avoid the need to move rooms. It
    is important for students to learn from this
    experience so as not to repeat it with their new

In Conclusion.
Ideal Roommates
  • are respectful to one another.
  • do not have to be best friends, they just need
    to be friendly!
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