Opposing lifestyles of ‘random roommates’ can lead to friction

By Lisa Chung

When students apply to live in the University residence halls with a random roommate, all that is asked about their personal life is whether they smoke or not. Housing finds that students who smoke share similar lifestyles, said Kirsten Ruby, assistant director of University housing for marketing.

“You could end up with someone who has a very different lifestyle from yours,” Ruby said.

Jessica Johnson, freshman in LAS, switched rooms because of roommate issues and now lives with a random roommate who is a smoker. Johnson does not smoke.

“My roommate smokes and it’s not really a big deal,” she said. “She is really good about it. A lot of other people have roommates who smoke a lot and they’ll try to smoke in the room.”

Other factors involved when pairing up random roommates include the student’s college and age, Ruby said.

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    Although some residence halls on campus offer extensive surveys that ask personal questions, the roommate satisfaction at these places is not any higher than found in University housing, she said.

    “It looks like they have a lot more control, but (these surveys) don’t seem to increase or decrease satisfaction,” she added.

    However, Jay Kutchins, graduate student and resident director of Illini Tower, 409 E. Chalmers St., prefers that those who request random roommates fill out a personal data sheet.

    “The more information we have, the better,” Kutchins said.

    The questionnaire asks students about their sleeping schedule, music preferences, if they smoke, and among other things, if they plan on rushing for a fraternity or sorority, he said.

    About 60-70 percent of students request random roommates at Illini Tower, and there is an estimate of ten cumulative room switches in a year, he added. These switches do not necessarily result from problems with random roommates.

    Students who found it difficult to live with random roommates in University housing believe it would be helpful to fill out personal surveys.

    Katie Lorge, freshman in LAS, found that she was not really compatible with her random roommate and switched rooms.

    “I couldn’t study. I like it completely quiet and she liked studying with music,” she said. “We have very different lifestyles.”

    Johnson also requested a room switch after finding that living with her random roommate was not beneficial.

    “We had different schedules,” she said. “She would be up very late.”

    Yet, both Lorge and Johnson still recommend that freshmen choose random roommates.

    “You get to meet people that you would have never met before,” Johnson said. “I would have never met my new roommate just walking down the street.”

    But a random roommate is not the only new person someone gets to meet in this process.

    “It’s easier to meet new people because you can meet your new roommate’s friends, too,” Lorge added.

    Although living with someone who leads a completely different life can be daunting, learning to cooperate and creating a working relationship is part of what comes with dorm life, Ruby said.

    “There’s still an advantage because you’re learning how to get along with someone who is not like you, Ruby said. “It’s something we hope (students) take away from living in University Housing.”