Two students hanging out in a dorm room in Machuga Heights.

Rommates and Suitemates

Living Peacefully – “Getting Along”

For some, you may have had a room all to yourself for as long as you can remember. For others who are accustomed to sharing, it is still an adjustment adapting to different personalities and lifestyles that may differ from yours. It may be a challenge to live cooperatively with roommates and suitemates in an area that may be smaller than your room at home. However, view it as a part of your Montclair State experience, an opportunity to learn about others, while sharing your background and interests. You may just find it well worth the effort.

Talking to someone unfamiliar may be difficult at times, however, communication is the key to any healthy relationship. Be a good listener and open to compromise while asserting your own ideas and rights and you’ll probably discover that you have more in common than you thought.

Helpful Tips

  • Be willing to communicate right from the start. If you have taken the opportunity to speak to your roommate(s) before you arrive on campus, you have the advantage of having exchanged information about what to bring. Is it necessary for both of you to have a TV? Can you share the cost of a refrigerator, etc.? You may also have shared ideas about decorating the room, style, etc. This early communication might alleviate some initial problems with room arrangements. Don’t judge your roommate based on online communities and communications.
  • If you haven’t already communicated with your roommate(s) prior to arriving on campus, it is a good idea to discuss ideas on possible room set-up before actually arranging the room.
  • Knowing that there is limited space and you may not be able to fit all the items you brought with you, be willing to compromise. Sharing is important, so be sure to have clear expectations of each other as to what items you do and do not feel comfortable sharing.
  • In addition to discussing some of those living space concerns right from the start, it helps to share some basic information about your backgrounds, where you are from, your family, hobbies, academic interests, etc.
  • Be proactive and honest about your feelings, while at the same time being considerate and respectful. Let your roommate(s)/suitemates know what really annoys you or makes you angry. Discuss how you feel about overnight guests, alcohol, phone use, housekeeping, whether you are a morning or night person and other aspects of your personal habits.
  • When sharing your feelings and concerns, use I statements. For example, instead of saying, “You make me very angry,” try saying “I am very angry.” Making definitive statements allows you to own your feelings and your roommate is less apt to be defensive.
  • When sharing your feelings or having a disagreement it is best to share those face-to-face and not through notes, text messages or on social media.

It is not necessary for roommates to be the best of friends to be compatible. Dealing with differences, whether cultural, spiritual or lifestyle may be a challenge, but with a positive, open attitude, it can be a wonderful learning experience. You will more than likely find that you and your roommate(s) have quite a bit in common once you move past any differences on the surface. If not, you will still have learned something valuable about how to live with someone very different from you — a skill that will serve you well in many other situations in life.

Roommate Bill of Rights

As a roommate, you have the right to…

  1. Study and sleep free from undue interference (noise, stereo, guests, etc.) in your room.
  2. Expect roommates will respect each other’s personal belongings.
  3. A clean environment in which to live.
  4. Free access to your room and its facilities without pressure from your roommate(s) to stay away frequently.
  5. Personal privacy.
  6. Have guests, with the understanding they will be respectful of your roommate(s), suitemates or apartment mates and other residents of the floor or apartment and they will strictly adhere to the guest policy.
  7. Be free of fear and intimidation—physical and/or emotional.
  8. Expect reasonable cooperation in the use of room-shared appliances and a commitment to agreed-upon payment procedures for those appliances.
  9. Be free of peer pressure or ridicule regarding your personal lifestyle choices.

Dealing with Challenges That Arise

Remain objective and respectful

  • Talk to your roommate(s) about the problem(s). Don’t gossip to others and don’t hold it in.
  • Be specific about your feelings, e.g.  “I get angry when you do ‘y’ and ‘z,’” rather than, “You’re a jerk.” The second comment is not productive in solving the problem because it’s too personal and not specific enough.
  • Listen to your roommate’s perspective the same way you would want them to listen to yours.
  • Avoid communicating through online communities and referring to posts regarding roommate concerns and/or behaviors. Remember, face-to-face communication is the key to communicating successfully.
  • Be willing to compromise whenever possible.

Consult an objective outsider if you are unable to resolve issues yourselves

  • Your RA can help mediate the situation.
  • A mutual friend or another person who is impartial such as your Community Director, may also be of assistance.
  • Reach out to the Mediation Resource Center (MRC), located in the Bohn Hall 4th Floor Office for assistance. They can also be reached at mrc@montclair.edu.
  • Complete a roommate contract to help guide decisions about living together.

Be sure you confirm the points upon which you have agreed

  • Unchecked assumptions can also be damaging.
  • Put your agreement in writing, e.g. “Bill will use headphones for his TV after 11 p.m.” and “Sam will not turn on his radio in the morning before 8 a.m.” or, “Mary will have her friend stay on weekends only.”
  • Be realistic about agreements you make with your roommate(s).

An official room change would be the last resort

  • Remember, a new roommate can be the source of many new problems.