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Published:April 26th, 2007 01:26 EST

Roommate Conflict

By Lisa Velardi

College roommates argue most often about overflowing trash cans and dirty kitchens.

Dr. Jeff Butler, the UCF interpersonal and organizational division head, said roommates argue because they behave inconsiderately towards one another and never correct their behavior. Many students are spoiled," Butler said. "You want me to take out the trash?"

Another problem is ignorance of other`s needs. Susanna Renna, a UCF resident assistant at Pegasus Landing, explained, The other majority of problems have to do with thinking about other people. People are self-centered without realizing it."

The day I moved in, there was a cake in the kitchen full of ants," Stephanie Anderson, a sophomore psychology major said. Anderson lives in Riverwind Apartments on Alafaya Trail. She said, The smell is nauseating. I tried to leave notes for my roommates to clean up. I just see them balled up in the trashcan."

"Jackie" (not her real name), a freshman event management major, yelled at her roommates because of their messy habits. They never cleaned any of their dishes and they would stack up to where the sink is overflowing," she said. Also, they left their random stuff all over the place. Because of those things we would have fights at the top of our lungs."
Butler said the other most common problems that cause conflict between roommates include:

  • Wearing each other`s clothes without asking
  • Eating food without replacing it
  • Having parties without consulting one another
  • Agreeing on the temperature setting
  • Trying to steal the other`s boyfriend/girlfriend
  • Handling differences of personality

Lauren Shepherd, a freshmen hospitality management major, felt that her roommates did a poor job of handling their differences of personality. They did not understand her choice to remain a virgin until marriage, she said. Shepherd added, I would have much preferred to just be respected for my choices. Signs were posted on my door calling me the `Virgin Mary.` It was an uncomfortable situation."

Butler said students often refuse to settle disagreements. He said, With divorce, 93 percent of cases do settle because there`s a lot of psychological stress there. One of the problems with roommates is there`s not a huge downside if one person refuses to settle."
Susanna Renna said there is not much an RA can do when one person acts indifferently.

Jackie sought help from her Lake Claire resident assistant. Jackie said she tried talking to her RA about her problems but thought she would give little help. She is a bum who basically partied with her residents," Jackie said. Nothing good came out of her trying to help, so I just let it be."

Despite Jackie`s problems, Renna said that, in her experience, RA`s handle the situation successfully without outside help about 90 percent of the time. If the problem is serious, the residents go through three mediation sessions. If they still have a problem, a graduate student takes over, then the area coordinator next," Renna said. RA`s are just the first person in a big structure of help," she said. RA`s are trained to help and it usually works." Butler said.
Even with all the help available to students, he said that an optimistic attitude in the face of a problem is not enough sometimes. If nothing is working, then get a new roommate," Butler said.

Other students continue to try and work through their problems. These students discovered their personal weaknesses when fighting. Emily Simpson, a freshmen exceptional education major, found that she avoided confrontation altogether. My roommate and I decided that talking things through was much better than not saying anything at all, which is what we both tend to do," she said.

Anderson also said she should have been more outspoken in expressing her frustration with her roommates. They all lived together before," she said. "I was the new girl, and I didn`t want to stir things up. I was too scared."

"However, ignored issues tend to erupt during stressful times of the year. Renna said," Finals` week is the busiest time for mediation. "Things explode at the last minute. Things that roommates didn`t know they were upset about come out because of stress. As an RA, you could think your building is fine until finals` week."

Charles Philip, an RA at the on-campus Hercules Apartments, said that one situation brewed the entire year and bubbled over during the last semester of school. "In many cases something you don`t at all expect to be a cause of irritation becomes one over time," he said.