Dear Dr. Wes and Miranda: I’m an out-of-state college freshman, and I hate my roommate with ever fiber of my being. Her boyfriend stays over at our room every flipping night and they aren’t discrete about what they do while I’m trying to sleep in the same room. I’ve gone to my RA and told her, “Hey, at the beginning of the year, I told my roommate I didn’t care if her boyfriend slept over, but I didn’t know it would be every night.” But she only talked to her and “encouraged her to follow the rules,” which did nothing. I hate the dorms. I hate her. I hate him. I do not even sleep here anymore. She doesn’t shower and doesn’t do her laundry. My room smells. I go through a Febreze can every three days. I have seen both of them naked multiple times.
Miranda: For high school seniors who are reading this and terrified right now, don’t worry. This is not an ordinary situation. Everyone hopes that her roommate will be likable, or maybe even just livable, but what do you do when your roommate turns out to be completely unreasonable?
The girl described in your letter sounds like she lives in her own world and has very little consideration for anyone outside of it. It also doesn’t sound like the resident assistant was a lot of help, which is also unfortunate.
Filing a formal complaint with the housing department seems like your best option along with a request for a roommate transfer. This girl is essentially rendering your room unusable. She does not seem like the average roommate who has a few issues; she seems awful. If you don’t want to cause a stir, just remember that you’re paying thousands of dollars a year to essentially be kicked out of your room.
Some colleges make you sign a roommate agreement that states how you will handle disputes like cleaning, borrowing each other’s things, and visitors of the opposite sex. No matter how nice or normal your roommate seems on that first day, set strict guidelines. If you two end up getting along and respecting each other, then you won’t need it very often, but if it ends up being a bad situation, you’ll have proof to take to the RA that she broke your agreement.
This is one of those scary, real-world experiences that we will all have to face in one situation or another. Without your parents by your side, it’s up to you to decide how to handle this one, and then to take action.
Dr. Wes: Wow. As one who frequently suggests living in the dorms your first year of college, I am absolutely horrified at the unethical and thoughtless way this girl is treating you, and at the lack of attention your RAs have given the matter. I understand that RAs are just slightly older young adults than you, but they are carefully selected from many applicants and are expected to have a higher level of maturity than their peer group. Given what you’re telling us, I’m not sure yours are up to the task.
I suggest you give the RA one more chance, and then go straight to her supervisor, then to the housing director, and if that doesn’t resolve this problem, you need to go to your university’s ombudsman. Every school has one, and his or her job is to see that the university is living up to its contract with you, which it most assuredly is not. Document every single conversation you have along the way, what is offered as a resolution, and why that wasn’t acceptable to you. I don’t know what the exact rules are about sleepovers at your dorm, but if this girl wants her guy to be her roommate, then the housing office should let you move in with someone else and these two can shack up together in a co-ed dorm.
As Miranda points out, you and your family are paying big bucks for this accommodation, and you do not deserve to be the third, unwilling party in your roommate’s nightly romantic liaison; or subjected to their poor hygiene; or witness to their less-than-sexy strip show. If school officials won’t correct this problem, then you may actually have to seek the advice of an attorney. Not a very nice introduction to adulthood.
Finally, this is one of the angriest letters we’ve published, and as an advocate for young people, I share your frustration. But please try to take a deep breath and fight the good fight here, rather than being sucked down into a deep, dark vortex of viciousness and disrespect. It seems your roommate already has that territory pretty well-covered, and the last thing you want to do is join her there.