A Cautionary Tale from a College Disaster: The Roommate Ruckus

dormroom.jpgRoommates – you never know who or what you will get. While some people live blissfully together, others get stuck in a sticky situation. So sticky in fact, the administration in my situation couldn’t even wrap their upper-hand around it to help.

After first moving into my freshman dorm room that August, I anxiously awaited the arrival of my roommate, Mary (name changed). Finally, she walked in — leaving me with nervousness instead of anticipation. As I started to string my Hello Kitty lights next to my decorated bulletin boards, she started hanging her Hell Boy posters up next to her crucified scarecrow homemade ceramic creation. We were polar opposites (in an e-mail over the summer, she described herself as “stoic” while I replied with “enthusiastic” about myself). But I figured, college is a new experience and I wanted to soak it all in, so I told myself that Mary and I would work out, even if our outside appearances seemed at different ends of the college student spectrum.

But then my belongings started disappearing, and my food somehow made its way into her very own mini-fridge (we had 2 refrigerators for our room because she refused to e-mail me back throughout the summer about who was bringing what – a sign I should have paid attention to back then), and this ultimately started the downward spiral. Despite signing a roommate contract earlier in the semester, she disregarded nearly every single rule and when I called her out on it, she had no response. In fact, she didn’t really say much about anything, making our communication null and void.

One night in November of 2006, she snapped. I was doing my homework when Mary came into the room throwing her stuff down on her bed. Immediately, she started telling me, with a grin on her face, that she had thoughts of killing me and that she hated me. Repeating her thoughts over and over, I not only feared for myself, but for her because she never acted in that manner before, despite her quirkiness. Slowly marching around the room and ripping up paper after paper, Mary started to tear her stuff down while attempting to break a mirror over our rug. I thought I was a part of a college horror film, and I just started waiting for her to levitate off the bed like Regan in The Exorcist.

The next day, I followed protocol by making a report to my RA. Thanksgiving break came and went, and I didn’t hear anything from the Housing and Residence Life administration. After the night of Mary’s breakdown, the room was filled with nothing but a mixture of tension and nervousness. I wanted out. She wanted out. I complained about her. She complained about me. Finally going to talk to the head of housing myself (along with the Dean of Students), I expected immediate relief. Instead, I was pretty much slapped in the face.

Instead of help from the administration, they asked “What did you do to make her act like this?” Replying that I didn’t know that I had such control over someone’s behavior enough to put me in danger, the Head of Housing told me I was just a rude person and that if I could be more accommodating to Mary, we could work out our situation. Mary filed a report that she wanted a new room or roommate, and I followed up with the same report myself. How could it be just my fault when both parties involved wanted the same thing?

Finals came and went, leaving a fresh start in January 2007. It actually took the administration until the second week of January to finally deal with the situation, only after my parents became involved. In fact, once I got my parents involved (something that I think is outlandish considering I’m in college, and I should be able to handle things myself), one of the housing coordinators lied to my mom and said that the situation was already handled. It wasn’t. And then after she finally admitted to her bluff, only then did the administration agree that Mary would be moved out of the room immediately.

I thought her moving out would be a smooth process. But it wasn’t. It ended up being a major ordeal. While the Student Life Administration helped pack up Mary, the Dean of Students stopped by to make sure the situation was being handled appropriately, so it wasn’t stressful on Mary. While packing her up and leaving the room a mess for me to clean, the very administration that promised me as a prospective that everything would be handled respectfully no matter what the situation, was practically laughing in my face.

I was the one to blame. I was the one that made living together unbearable. Never mind Mary threatening to kill me and showing very strange behavior, it was my fault. And the administration was very clear about letting me know their opinion on this. That is when I realized that all students are not treated equally.

No student should EVER feel like a bad situation is their fault. Mary was a nice girl – we were just entirely too different, and that is okay. However, the school made it into a game of picking sides, which is unprofessional. No student should have to live with someone that could endanger their life. No student should deserve their administration doing everything except helping until the last possible moment.

If you are ever in a situation like this, demand immediately (the next day) to talk to the administration. Do not let the situation sit, even if the administration seems lackadaisical in their interest to help. And last but not least, get your parents involved or tell the administration you will because they have a harder time turning away parents than students.

Most of all, even if your rights are taken away, you have to know that you do have them and you need to demand them. Speak up, and don’t stop until you get what you want.

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