Conflict between roommates often leads students to switch out of their dorm rooms, and starting this year, a new effort at Kent State refers students to Student Mediation Services before they do so.
Last year, students were referred to Student Mediation Services for their second or more room change due to a conflict, according to an email Kevin Mowers, Director of Residence Life. This year, referrals are implemented for any room change due to conflict.
Sharing a small space with one to three people can lead to new challenges that students may not have faced before. These challenges include deciding when to have friends over, shutting off the light, showering and much more. Residents are required to fill out a roommate agreement to help face these challenges and understand what the other wants.
When the agreement is broken or there is no understanding between roommates, conflict often arises. When there is conflict between two people it can be intimidating to deal with, especially when it’s a roommate. Sometimes, the first instinct is to switch rooms and avoid the problem altogether.
A lot of the times people are quick to want to move rather than addressing the issues or even talking to the roommate, said Jacquelyn Bleak, mediator at Kent State’s Student Mediation Services.
“If we can feel those strong feelings and allow ourselves to feel them, we can move through them,” Bleak said. “But it’s when we try to stuff them down that things tend to boil over or things don’t tend to get resolved, and then they fester.”
Students aren’t able to just switch roommates whenever they feel like it. There is a two-week period at the start of the semester during which room changes are not made. According to Jill Jenkins, Director of Residence Services, the first two weeks of the school year are used to see where students are at. Then after that, the students are able to come talk to the residence hall directors about room changes.
Depending on the situation, like if there is conflict between roommates, the student may or may not be granted a room change.
“We don’t want to just make that move. If a student is having trouble with another student because of noise issues or sleeping schedule issues, our goal is to help students navigate those challenges,” Jenkins said.
The challenge of immediately moving students when they are having problems is that there’s no guarantee the next experience will be any different.
The goal of Student Mediation Services is to support the student in whatever the context would, if that be an individual or a group, Bleak said.
They ask that the students sit down together with a third party and talk their feelings and conflict out.
“It’s my hope eventually, that in the residence halls, changing out of your room due to a conflict is going to be a rare thing…I hope that we can provide support to students so that we can figure it out so that they don’t have to move over and over,” Bleak said.
When there is a problem people tend to jump to the most extreme and end the friendship prematurely, Bleak said. At times mediation is the first time people have actually heard each other out.
“My one thing I would say is allow yourself to feel awkward, allow yourself to feel uncomfortable, because so often we don’t have the conversation and we don’t share how were feeling because we don’t want to make waves,” Bleak said. “We don’t want to feel awkward and then were suffering internally rather than getting our needs met.”
Bleak said many colleges are going more toward conflict resolution and restorative justice processes instead of a punitive one. A process where people can hear and decide how they’re going to move forward is beneficial compared to being told what to do by an authority figure, she explained.
Mediation services asks students to go against their natural reactions Bleak said. It allows students to share how others behavior has impacted them, it creates a space for students to hear. Mediation Services is free and confidential and welcome to anyone on or off-campus.
Vanessa Gresley is the housing reporter. Contact her at [email protected]