On a college campus, the closest thing a person has to a home is their dorm room. Though dorms are not a completely private space – as they are most often shared with a roommate – they are intended to be a safe place where college students are able to sleep, study, eat and thrive. Thriving becomes difficult, however, when such an important piece of one’s living experience becomes a toxic and negative environment.
A dorm room can become a toxic environment when one roommate’s regard for the other diminishes. Examples of this include being loud in the room, using and moving another person’s things without asking, lack of communication and not respecting an individual’s personal space. If mutual respect for one another is thrown out the window, a dorm room can easily start to feel unsafe. I am not saying roommates have to be best friends or even friends at all, but basic human decency and communication is necessary to create a safe and healthy environment for both parties. As college students, especially first-years, we continuously feel as though we need to search for where we belong, but it can be easy to feel like you belong nowhere when your room becomes a toxic environment.
When roommates clash, it is usually up to the person who is feeling attacked to find a new place to live – but why? Perhaps it is thought that they don’t feel safe in their original environment or there is no real way to prove roommate harassment when it is only verbal or indirect. This does not seem fair to me. Now not only does the one being attacked have to focus on schoolwork and live in an uncomfortable environment, but they also have to find a new place to live. College is already stressful enough without a toxic room environment, but finding a new place is an additional nightmare. This can be very taxing on a student’s stress level and mental health.
If there is a disagreement with roommates and they cannot find a workable solution themselves they are encouraged to go to Junior Counselors, Residence Assistants and/or Area Coordinators for advice. If the problem continues, a list of available rooms is given to students looking for a new place to live. It is up to the targeted individual to find resources to help themselves. Students must meet up with potential roommates to see if they are compatible. Even if the student searching for a new place to live thinks they are compatible with another person, that person may not agree. This puts stress on students looking for a room because the meeting is more akin to an interview. Since this is a very strenuous situation, it would be helpful if there were someone to assist the student going through this process instead of leaving them mostly on their own. It is also very interesting that the student being attacked is given the task of finding a new place, despite being the one targeted.
“Now not only does the one being attacked have to focus on schoolwork and live in an uncomfortable environment, but they also have to find a new place to live.” – Adriana Sanchez ’22
College is hard enough to navigate without having to change rooms mid-year, especially for first-years who are going into college with very little knowledge of how it actually works. It doesn’t make any sense that the aggressor is able to keep living comfortably in their room while the other student has to go through the stress of finding a new place to live whilst still living in a negative environment.
I think that the person being attacked should not have to move. If someone is causing a disruption to what is supposed to be a positive room environment, they should be the one who has to move.
So to those out there dealing with negative roommate situations: Communicate first. Communication is the most important part of sharing space with another person. If nothing is improving, remember that you do not have to go through this alone. There are people out there who can help. You deserve to live in a place where you can feel comfortable. Once you leave a negative environment, life will improve.
Adriana Sanchez ’22 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Santa Fe, N.M. Her major is undecided.