Sydney Sherman is a journalism freshman and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News as a whole.
With Spring quarter on the rise, the sun is out, the flowers are blooming and there is a full eight weeks left for freshmen living on campus to either ditch their roommate or grit their teeth and look ahead to the light at the end of the tunnel.
After students are admitted to Cal Poly, the next big decision they will face is where, and more importantly, with whom, they will be living for their freshman year and their first taste of college life.
The people you meet in your dorm room are some of the first people you encounter at this strange, new place, and they have a huge impact on whether this is a place you want to be — or they may send you packing.
Students are given the option to come into Cal Poly with a roommate of their choice, whom they may know from back home or whom they may meet on one of the class Facebook groups, e.g. “Class of 2022,” for my year.
This the case for about 50 percent of incoming freshmen, according to Marketing Coordinator for Housing Julia Bluff.
However, for the optimistic students or those forced into a triple without a choice (like myself), it is left at random based on “Residential Learning Communities.”
These include but are not limited to “24/7 Quiet Community,” “Collaborative Leadership” or “College-Based,” among other broad and confusing options that students have to select on their housing application before coming to Cal Poly.
The Residential Learning Communities (RLC’s) are “groups of students that are housed together based on a common field of study, career or personal interest,” Bluff said. “We want students from different backgrounds and experiences to live with one another and learn from each other.”
Although these communities have the potential to provide foundation for a good relationship, they fail to take into account any deeper personality traits or living habits. For example, I could be “Gender Inclusive,” which is great, but I could also bring different partners home every night and leave my stuff all over the floor.
Although these communities have the potential to provide foundation for a good relationship, they fail to take into account any deeper personality traits or living habits
Even in the best case scenario, these communities flatten everyone down to a single-identity.
Not so surprisingly, this broad way of putting students together has proved to have its issues.
As of January 2019, Bluff said “Housing had completed 198 room trade requests for the academic year.” That does not include the rest of winter quarter, which was bound to have created trouble with the gloom of harder classes and endless rainy days.
One student from the Red Bricks has had her roommate say, “openly very transphobic and homophobic comments,” apparently knowing that she identifies as queer, and has “made [her] mental health plummet,” as a result, according to the source.
When she tried to go to a Resident Advisor (RA) about it, she said “she was never there in her room when [she] needed to talk to her.”
In another instance, a student from Yakʔitʸutʸu said her roommate steals her food when she is not there and “will hide the wrappers or in some cases leave the empty food box in the fridge so that [she] doesn’t initially notice,” as well as obsessively keep tabs on her actions.
“Every night that I stay over at a friends or go out, she always excessively questions where I was at or if I was okay and has stated she feels she should call the cops every time I’m gone,” said the source.
As for a true roommate horror story, another student from the Red Bricks might have everyone beat after getting a new roommate for the start of Spring quarter.
After giving her some time to move in, the student immediately noticed, “some interesting things around the room.”
These things included “devil drawings hanging up over her desk,” “voodoo dolls,” and words written on the walls such “death,” “satan” and “anxiety”— just to name a few.
This was not the worst of it.
The student said that on the second night of them living together, her new roommate announced that she would be growing “shrooms” in the closet of their room, to which she responded, “No, I’m not comfortable with that.”
The new roommate ignored her comments, saying that she was going to do it anyway, which became a breaking point for the original student.
After telling the RA, who proceeded to inform the proper authorities about the drugs, the new roommate was furious, calling the other roommate a “pussy” for telling the police about it. Yet she had to live with her for another few days before she would be kicked out of housing.
The roommate stayed with a friend for the two nights because she did not feel comfortable sleeping in the room with her, a precaution that she should not have had to take in the first place.
These kinds of conflicts could easily be avoided with a simple roommate quiz or personality test, matching students based on similarity and giving them the resource to find a good match.
When asked about using a personality test of sorts, Bluff said that they have considered adding them in the past, but that “roommate surveys aren’t perfect” — although apparently neither are the RLC’s, according to the number of room changes.
“People tend to fill them out aspirationally,” Bluff said. “Parents and supporters often fill out housing applications on behalf their students.” This may be some true in some cases, but it oftentimes sounds more like scapegoat.
Regardless, even having the simplest quiz asking questions like “Are you an early bird or a night owl?” or “What kinds of activities do you enjoy?” would be more of an improvement than having nothing at all.
Housing has not completely ruled out the idea of doing a roommate quiz, and Bluff said they are still, “exploring options to make them more effective.”
However, for next year, Housing plans on taking an even more passive role, leaving it up to students to have more freedom in not only their roommates but also the rooms themselves.
However, for next year, Housing plans on taking an even more passive role, leaving it up to students to have more freedom in not only their roommates but also the rooms themselves
“First-year students will select their rooms on a first-come, first-served basis — based on the date they secured housing,” Housing Assistant Director of Outreach & Communications Nona L. Matthews said.
Students will still select RLCs, the location of which will be decided based upon demand, and then they will be able to choose their own rooms within each specific learning community — which, to me, sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.
“Housing won’t be doing much assigning of roommates anymore — which we are good with,” Bluff said.
Whether this will lead to chaos or harmony or both, it is too soon to tell, but one thing is for sure – Housing wants a hands-off role when it comes to day-to-day dorm life and will continue to leave it up to the students to figure it out themselves in the jungle of dorm life.