The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU students gather around a bucket of markers to write an encouraging note to put in “Welcome to the Shelter” kits at event in mid-April on SMU’s campus.
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Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
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The reality of the roommate agreement

By Preston Hutcherson

If there really are, as some scientists have speculated, an infinite number of universes in which every possible event has occurred, there must be at least one universe where in the early days of the modern university when someone first suggested that it might be good for undergraduates to share a room with a fellow student whom they had never met, the idea was laughed at, dismissed, and the person who suggested it was driven out of town.

The college students in that universe live peacefully in residential halls where no one ever wakes them up by coming in late, or snores too loudly, or takes the last fruit snack without asking.

Though it may sound appealing, we should count ourselves lucky to not live in
that universe.

For all of its challenges, the roommate experience is in many ways a small portrait of what we want college to be: an inherently uncomfortable paring of contrasting ideas — your whole world colliding with your roommate’s. It can be awkward, intimidating, even smelly, but the end result should be a set of wiser, more empathetic individuals.
If you are beginning this process as a first-year student, or an upperclassman living on campus, you will have several tools to help you manage the logistics of life with a stranger, such as the “roommate agreement” rules to govern how loudly music can be played in the room and who will take out the trash. These are good things to think about, though any experienced room-sharer will tell you that such agreements are rarely remembered much past the moment you sign them.

The real work of the roommate experience, and the real beauty, is in the uncharted waters, the moments of conflict and humor that serve as a window into the world the person who sleeps five feet away from you lives in every day.

Whether this person becomes a life-long friend or merely a face in the freshman year photo album, don’t neglect the chance to exercise your powers of empathy by using moments of conflict to consider the possibility that in a different universe, with different parents, a different hometown, different means, or different morals, you might very well be them, feeling as lost or lonely or insecure as they do.

The purpose of college is not to learn how to be angry that your roommate borrowed your towel, but to be angry and still recognize that the person who borrowed your towel is a complex, complicated bundle of contradictions going through a time of intense change, just as you are, and they deserve your patience and understanding.
These are magical, difficult times for us all, but we are fortunate to live in the roommate universe — embrace it fully as an opportunity to learn how another human thinks and feels, and why they take the last fruit snack.

Hutcherson is a major in political science and economics.

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