More Resources Needed for Roommate Relations

WSN Editorial Board

A study conducted by the NYU Department of Psychology found that college roommates underestimate each other’s distress. The researchers concluded that training on how to detect and deal with distress would help college students measure their roommates’ distress more accurately and help them actively cope with it. Residence halls at NYU largely rely on the Office of Residential Life and Housing Services with Resident Assistants serving as the primary medium of communication between students and the RLHS. Even though RAs are trained to deal with distressed students, residents don’t undergo any type of training to deal with these issues. NYU should institute a mandatory RLHS program that educates its residents on how to handle each others’ distress to create a safety net within the residential life community and for RAs themselves.

Resources can be found online concerning roommate relations, but more needs to be done to increase students’ ability to recognize roommates’ stress levels and act to reduce them. In recent years, mental health has proven to be a serious issue across many college campuses — NYU included. With stress being one of many potential factors contributing to mental health issues, college students, many of which are independent for the first time in their lives, should have the tools to handle their own stress along with others. Due to living in close quarters, roommates have the unique opportunity to see each other unfiltered and have a higher chance of knowing when their roommate isn’t doing well. Roommates experience each other’s emotions firsthand. Therefore, NYU should implement training procedures, especially for first-year students, that teach roommates how to recognize each other’s stress levels more accurately. Another measure that could be taken is enforcing roommate agreements and implementing floor-wide events that encourage bonding.. There could be programs that help hone more stress-recognizing skills instead of solely stress-busting events. First-years should be targeted since upon coming to college, they’re building new support systems and living with random roommates. Roommates can be the first line of defense when combating overwhelming stress and mental health issues, but currently, NYU students in housing don’t have the tools to do this. NYU must enact policies that give them these tools.

Stressed out students may turn to their distress toward their roommates and spark up conflict. RAs tend to be delegated the troubles arising from stress or college adaptability, which can be heightened when rooming scenarios aren’t optimal. After all, RAs are hand-picked and trained to play the role of an in-residence peer counselor. Many residents believe they can shift responsibility onto their RAs to address their roommate’s stress. However, roommates share the most proximity with each other, an advantage that should be used to boost emotional support. Most roommate conflicts could be easily patched-up by enhancing communication between roommates. This, surprisingly, is not listed as one of the key responsibilities of an RA at NYU despite the positive results it could bring. While signing a roommate agreement form can avoid conflict, more preemptive measures can reduce the likeliness of conflict occurring from lack of communication or one’s inability to handle distress. By having preemptive programs for roommates, distress could be alleviated.

Rather than solely relying on RAs to mitigate conflicts, roommates should have access to the necessary resources to know how to recognize and measure distress in each other and provide appropriate support and help. Facilitating communication should not only be up to RAs — it’s up to residents to learn this skill as well. Besides using mediating skills behind closed dorm doors, people can use them in any cohabiting situation whether it be with friends, a partner or family members. Being attentive and responsive to each other’s emotional state is an important part of living in a supportive environment.

 

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1 COMMENT

  1. Hey,

    First off – this sentence needs a bit of work to be coherent – “Stressed out students may turn to their distress toward their roommates and spark up conflict”

    For me, personally, I’m not surprised that college roommates underestimate one another’s stress. If anyone has ever met anyone else at NYU, one knows the sort of pressure this school and it’s environment can put on its students.

    What am I surprised by is the idea put forth that roommates should be responsible and undergo training of some sort to monitor one another’s mental health.

    At first blush, a self-sustaining safety net might seem like a good idea. But to me it feels incredibly naive to think such a system would be as effective as hoped.

    Roommates are not beholden to one another in any way outside of sharing a space. Some roommates end up friends; others strangers; others enemies still. In cases where the individuals involved are on amiable terms, this could be effective. But many residents of NYU housing are so self-involved that the idea of them checking in on their roommate regularly on top of all of their other responsibilities is laughable.

    Furthermore, NYU already does have a training procedure for mitigating conflict and navigating personal issues in the student’s home – it’s called the THRIVE initiative. Any FYRE hall RA could tell you about this, as should the residents. During the beginning of the year, every resident/room in a first year hall was shown a video and given access to a website/resources that they can use to help support one another. All of that information is still available on the first page of the living agreement.

    Every single FYRE RA also already does the listed suggestion – implement floor wide programs to encourage bonding as well as doing all in their ability to enforce living agreements. It’s up to residents to actually participate in both of these initiatives for them to have any impact, and when residents don’t participate, it’s not for lack of trying from the paraprofessionals part.

    Enhancing communication between roommates and suite mates would be great, but again, it requires willful participation of residents for such efforts to work. Any RA in any building dealing with any sort of roommate conflict will tell you that they would love if roommates communicated more and that’s almost always the first question asked regarding any conflict…”Have you talked to your roommate about this?” You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

    I’m all for NYU students taking more personal responsibility and better managing their own mental health and stress. But you cannot force a culture change through programs or policies; it has to come from the residents themselves. Furthermore, I still feel that the idea that roommates should act as pseudo-therapists for one another is naive at best and damaging at worst. For a person who’s already being crushed by anxiety, stress, and depression, adding another human’s wellbeing on top of their own seems like a recipe for disaster.

    I can appreciate where the WSN Editorial Board is coming from with their comments made in this column. But I feel that whomever penned this is terribly under informed and misguided in their efforts.

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