The key to every relationship, including the one with your roommate, is communication.
You need to be open — ask, listen, and discuss.
Don’t wait until things build up inside you and get out of hand. Before it gets to that point – TALK IT OUT. Explain in a mature fashion what is bothering you and help your roommate(s) understand why.
- Do be genuine and say what is going right as well as what is going wrong.
- Do listen carefully, realizing that good listening is hard work that takes practice and good intentions.
- Be sensitive to each others moods—everybody has bad days, so try to understand when your roommate has one too.
- Share belongings you feel comfortable sharing and clearly state what you do not want to share.
- Seek assistance from you RC when things cannot be worked out between the two of you.
The Do Not’s
- Do not be antagonistic, arbitrary or patronizing.
- Avoid using inhibiting remarks like “Why don’t you listen to reason?” or “We’ve already tried that.”
- Do not interrupt. Listen carefully to the other person and do not jump to conclusions.
- Avoid discussing your roommate problems/conflicts with your friends and neighbors. Discuss the situation with your roommate.
The most important expectation of new students is that they will respect not only their room and roommate, but also the building that becomes your home during the semester. The dorm is home to many students, and disrespectful or destructive behavior affects the entire community when it damages or defaces a shared space.
First-year students are expected to respect the privacy of their roommates and floormates, and to be considerate in their activities and habits. Resident Counselors and Area Coordinators can assist students with mediation and conflict resolution, but many disagreements are avoided when students respect their neighbors and are mindful of other people’s needs.
There is no alcohol allowed in first-year dorms, even if a first-year student is of legal drinking age. This rule is strictly enforced, with consequences if it is violated.
Your enjoyment of life in Amherst College housing will depend to a large extent on the thoughtful consideration you demonstrate for your roommate and your neighbors.
In addition to abiding by the Honor Code and the housing regulations, the College expects you to establish and maintain a healthy relationship with your roommate.
- It is a privilege to have guests in your room. Both you and your guests need to respect the rights of your roommate(s) and other hall members.
- It is everyone’s responsibility to keep the building clean; even yours!
- Respect your roommate’s belongings, they are not yours.
- Settle conflicts peacefully. Your RC is available to assist you in resolving conflicts.
- Respect the rights of others to read, study and sleep free from undue interference. Unreasonable noise and other distractions inhibit the exercise of these rights.
- Respect your roommate’s right to free access of the room.
- Respect the personal privacy of others.
- No one has the right to intimidate or cause physical or emotional harm to another.
- Facilities and fixtures need to be shared.
- While the Residential Life staff will assist you in solving problems, it is your responsibility to actively participate in the solution.
These questions facilitate the discussion of some important roommate issues. You and your roommate(s) should discuss each question and then come to a consensus. Use your answers to complete the enclosed Roommate Contract.
You may have already discussed some of these items, but a good place to start understanding each other is to discover where each other comes from. Talk about:
- Where are you from?
- What was it like growing up?
- Do you know what your major will be?
- What do you hope to do with that?
- What are some of your interests and talents?
- Have you ever lived with someone before?
- What are ways that we can make sure that we communicate as roommates?
This may be the most important category. Establish some rules about how you want to be treated. Some of these might include:
- Politeness to each other in the room
- Politeness to each other’s guests
- No talking about roommate problems with mutual friends or neighbors
- No talking about each other on MySpace or Facebook
- No sharing secrets you might find out about each other
- Respect for each other’s religious beliefs and practices
Talk about how much you plan to use the room as a study area and how quiet you like the room to be when you study. If one roommate wants quiet study time and the other does not, set aside a certain number of quiet hours per week, and the quiet-loving roommate can study in the library at other times.
- When do you prefer to study?
- Do you prepare in advance or cram?
- What noise level is acceptable while studying is going on in the room? Can you study with the TV or stereo on?
- Would you prefer to have set study times?
- When do you usually go to bed?
- How much sleep is it important for you to have?
- Can you sleep with the light on?
- Can you sleep with the stereo or TV playing?
- What time will you be waking up in the mornings?
- What are you like in the morning?
- If you are making too much noise, how would you like for your roommate to approach you?
- What time do you feel is too early or too late to make and receive phone calls?
Roommates are entitled to bring visitors into their room, but it’s important not to abuse this privilege. You might set some rules about overnight guests—both the platonic kind and the romantic kind—and establish how often they are welcome in the room. You might also set rules about the frequency of daytime guests, since you probably don’t want your roommate’s best friends to become unofficial residents. Rules about parties fall into this category as well.
- Is it okay to have guests/visitors in the room?
- If yes, then how many at one time?
- How do you feel about having people in the room when you are trying to study?
- How much notice does everyone need to give in advance of the arrival of a guest?
- What times are not good to have guests?
- Are there times when you would prefer that friends of the same sex not be invited to visit in the room?
- Are there times when you would prefer that friends of the opposite sex not be invited to visit in the room?
- Can significant others spend the night?
- What about having sex in the room?
- How are we going to let each other know that it is inconvenient to have a guest/visitor?
- How do you feel about your roommate’s friends using your belongings?
- Which items can my roommates’ guests use when I am not present?
- Will social gatherings be allowed in the room?
- If your visitors are bothering your roommate, how would you like to be approached about this?
These rules might be as simple as “stay out of my stuff and don’t eat my food.” However, you can set more lenient rules such as “you can use my plates as long as you clean them up” or “feel free to play my video games.”
- What items can be shared and which may not?
- Do you want to be asked before things are borrowed?
- How will the refrigerator space be shared?
- Do you want to answer each other’s phone?
- Would you prefer that the windows are kept open or shut?
- How neat and clean do you like for things to be?
- Who will vacuum, dust, wash the dishes, and take out the trash?
- Do you prefer to have specific assignments? How often will these tasks be done?
- If you are not as neat as your roommate thinks you should be, how would you like your roommate to approach you?
- Do you like the way the room is arranged? If not, what would you like to change?
Discuss whether alcohol will be allowed in your room, and if so, how often and how much. This is especially important since alcohol is prohibited in first-year buildings and the presence of alcohol may get you in trouble. The same goes for illegal drugs, of course—unless your roommate doesn’t mind sharing the risk, don’t have them around! Be sure to discuss other things you might not want around, like a pet or cleaning products that trigger your allergies.
- How do you feel about the drinking of alcoholic beverages in the room?
- What do you consider to be excessive in terms of noise?
- What are some of your habits that you think your roommate should know about?
- What are you like when you are in a bad mood?
- What do you like to do in your spare time?
- What do you like to do for fun?
- When you do something your roommate doesn’t like, how would you like for your roommate to handle it?
- Do you hold a grudge, or do you say what’s on your mind and then forget it?
- Do you want to be included in your roommate’s social activities?
- What goals have you set for yourself this semester?
- What other item(s) would you like to bring up for discussion?