Relationships in dorms, respecting roommates

“I always wanted the roommate experience; to hang out, watch movies, go shopping, take a lot of pictures together,” said Ashley Jervis, a senior at Seton Hill University (SHU). “I could have had that, but I traded it for my boyfriend at the time.”

By: Aja Hannah

A&E Editor

*Disclaimer: This article was written from the standpoint of boyfriends being in female dorms, but this does not mean that it cannot be applied to couples of any kind where someone in the relationship has a roommate.

“I always wanted the roommate experience; to hang out, watch movies, go shopping, take a lot of pictures together,” said Ashley Jervis, a senior at Seton Hill University (SHU). “I could have had that, but I traded it for my boyfriend at the time.”

As with Jervis, a freshman’s roommate will not always become her best friend forever. Instead, as Director of Residence Life Robin Anke said, “Suddenly there could be a guy sleeping four feet away from you because the rules [at college] are not like your parent’s.”

Roommates will likely have conflicts during the first few weeks of school. According to Anke, conflicts about boyfriends or girlfriends in the dorms make up about 35% of the problems she hears. However, Anke said there are “tons” more of these conflicts that do not make it to her office because students “feel they aren’t in the position to say anything or complain, or they don’t feel the matter is worth it.”

“If I wasn’t a residence assistant (RA), I would probably just ignore [my roommate’s boyfriend] because I don’t get upset about many things,” said Karyssa Blair, a junior. “Now, if they were doing boyfriend/girlfriend things in my room while I was there, I would talk to my roommate personally and ask her if they can do that elsewhere. If she didn’t listen, I’d complain to my best friend until she made me go tell my RA.”

Junior and resident of the Maura dorms, Kayla Lesko, said, “I wouldn’t care if [my roommate] brought a boy over as long as they didn’t do anything, you know? And I’d like to meet him first so I don’t walk in and there’s some strange guy in my room.”

But, what if your roommate does not tell you?

Junior, Kristy Majocha, has learned to set boundaries “prior to anything becoming routine, like a boyfriend sleeping over every other weekend, because once it starts happening, it becomes harder to say something and much harder to tolerate.”

“The key is communication. You need to be upfront with your roommate about who you are. Find a compromise. The couple could find another place to hang out like in a lounge, but remember it is [both roommates’] room,” said Anke.

Freshmen have to fill out a roommate agreement form at the beginning of the year so, in the event of a conflict, the RA can refer back to the contract. Issues of boyfriends or girlfriends should first be discussed then.

If a problem does arise, both roommates need to remain open-minded.

“You have to consider the other person’s feelings or you won’t realize how upset they are. And remember you have to live together, not you and your boyfriend. If your roommate says it is a problem, you really need to fix the problem. Not just say you will and then never follow through,” said Jervis.
Jervis, who spent most of her time with her boyfriend the first year, said that her choices kept her from having the college roommate experience that she’d always wanted. “Eventually we got in a fight and she told me she didn’t want to live with a boy. She moved out. My boyfriend and I later broke up and he started dating my friend. I was so depressed, so wrapped up in it, I didn’t connect with my new roommate either,” she said.

Majocha, who worked on this roommate/boyfriend issue for over two years, suggested building a friendship. “It wasn’t just having my boyfriend over, but more like having a mutual friend over. Don’t ignore the roommate, make sure everyone is talking to each other,” she said.

Majocha also said that personal displays of affection should be kept to a minimum and Anke echoed that. “I’ve had students who have had problems from [the couple] sitting on the bed all night talking, to having sex while the other roommate is still awake,” she said.

If such problems persist, the roommates will sit down with the higher members of residence life, including, but not limited to their head RA, their graduate resident director, the Area Coordinator Amanda Ries, the Assistant Director Keisha, Jimmerson or Anke.

Also, the visitor needs to abide by SHU’s visitation policies. If they do not follow the rules, both parties could face a fine and the visitor could be banned from that dorm. If the companion is not a student at SHU or is a commuter, there are limited hours of visitation.

If he is a resident at SHU, there is not a limit to the hours he can be in the dorms. However SHU has a “no-cohabitation” policy. “They cannot spend the entire night just to crash there,” said Anke.

But Anke said that, despite popular belief, residence life isn’t out to catch you cohabitating. Disgruntled roommates are the ones that usually bring cohabitation to residence life’s attention. “This is usually an issue among freshman because they are new to communication,” Anke said.

“If there is some sort of situation, tell us beforehand,” said Anke. “We understand, especially in extreme situations and we want to help. Don’t wait to get caught.” She described one instance in which a boyfriend had surgery and he stayed over with his girlfriend, a SHU resident, because she had picked him up from the hospital.

Anke said that instead of waiting to get caught, the couple could have told residence life and they could have made arrangements. “But most of the time, it’s not an emergency,” she said. “They’re just spending the night.”

“You should remember that it’s not just a rule you’re breaking,” said Jervis.

“It affects you, your relationship and your roommate.” Jervis said if she had the chance she would definitely change how much she hung out with her boyfriend and how little she connected with her roommates. “You never know when a relationship may end and you might need your roommate as a friend more,” she said.