Macalester Residential Life’s Impact on Student Life

Macalester Residential Life’s Impact on Student Life

Lucy Wing, Staff Writer

Moving into college was one of the most exciting experiences of my life: living in a new place, making new friends and being on my own for the first time. I filled out my random roommate form in the summer, choosing neutral answers as I suspected many others would. I get along with most people so I wasn’t too worried about who my roommate would be. I was surprised by the length of the form; it only asked four questions: cleanliness, sleep schedule, how you expect to use your room and if there was anything else you would like to share. Putting aside the fact there are many other facets to a roommate relationship not discussed in the random roommate form put out by Macalester Residential Life, these simple questions that were included were seemingly not considered in those placements. The most common conversation I’ve had with people this year (besides “what classes are you taking this semester?”) is discussing problems with our roommates: complaints about not getting sleep, not getting along and not spending time in our rooms because we felt uncomfortable living in the space we are meant to live in. 

I went to Residential Life in October to start having discussions about my room situation. I had held out as long as I could. I’m not a confrontational person, especially around a conversation about how someone lives their life that could potentially lead to a hostile environment, so I went to my Residential Assistant (RA) first, as the college recommends. My RA held a conversation with me and referred me to my Residential Hall Director (RHD), recommending a room change. My RHD was less excited about a room change, leaving me to simply “work it out” with my roommate. I moved rooms in February, three months after my initial complaint. While this is only my personal experience, I know many other students who’ve had similar struggles; some sleeping on their friend’s floor for weeks, some moving home and commuting to classes, some leaving their room for class in the morning and not returning until night to sleep. Some have successfully moved rooms, while others still live in a room they are not comfortable in.

An unstable roommate situation puts a lot of stress on students who are learning how to live on their own for the first time, making friends and getting used to the college workload and expectations of student life. While there is an argument that living with a roommate “builds character,” those who have successful roommate matches live a much easier life than those who do not. If Macalester were to update its roommate form and place more emphasis on getting the match right from the beginning, Residential Life would deal with far fewer complaints and room change requests. Asking personality questions, if you eat in your room vs. out, like it dark or light, what type of music you listen to, have you lived with a roommate before, are all questions Residential Life should focus on; questions that dig deeper than how a person lives but who a person is. Then, if a team within Residential Life were to handpick roommates, pairing people based on this much larger mass of information, the matches would be far more likely to be successful. Macalester places a large emphasis on random roommates, actually discouraging requests, but without taking those random roommate forms seriously, they not only disservice the unusually large number of students in negative roommate situations, but they disservice themselves with the amount of room change requests they receive and conversations they must have. 

I am going to be an RA next year. My RA this year was the most supportive person in the whole process of changing rooms and I hope to provide that support for others, pushing Residential Life to take room change requests seriously and pushing them to rethink the entire process. For a school as small as Macalester, I’m surprised by the lack of care shown to me and others by Residential Life. If people were more comfortable in their rooms and with their roommates, they are far more likely to be successful in school and have a better college experience overall.