3 ResLife Pro Quick Tips for Handling Roommate Conflict

Roompact’s “Quick Tips” series highlights ideas and suggestions you can put into your practice as either a professional staff or student staff member working in residence life and education. Click to read more from the series.

An inevitable part of every housing professional’s fall is dealing with roommate conflict. But how can you get a handle on it? We’ve go three tips…

1. Be proactive in reducing conflict before it begins.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. One of the easiest ways to reduce staff time spent on mediating roommate conflicts is by attempting to preclude them from happing in the first place. There are a number of ways you can set yourself up for a better fall. Some schools have experimented with how they do roommate selection with varying results and many focus on how to help students set reasonable roommate expectations and prepare them for when conflict may inevitably rise. Helping students understand their own conflict management style can also help.

2. Provide tools for your residents to help them navigate conflict.

If a conflict does occur, what tools can you give to students to help them navigate it? A common feature of many departments is to have students complete a roommate agreement. An agreement alone, however, is not enough. Think about how you introduce it to students, what educational work you need to do beforehand, and how you can help facilitate the completion of an agreement so that it isn’t just a checklist item that students complete. Once it’s complete, make sure it stays on as a living document. A roommate agreement can be a useful tool in the event of a conflict. Some schools will use this in conjunction with conflict mediation services through trained staff and peer mediators. At the very least, consider training your own professional and student staff with the basics of conflict mediation.

3. Get a handle on your data.

When thinking long-term, data and assessment can be invaluable tools in helping you in reduce roommate conflict and gaining a better understanding as to why it occurs and what mediation strategies are working best. Some of the questions you might want to have data on include:

  • How many roommate conflicts do we have? 
  • Do roommate conflicts occur more frequently in some halls or on some floors than others? 
  • How often are parents involved in roommate conflicts? 
  • How often do staff hold mediations? 
  • How many roommate conflicts are resolved through a resident move? 
  • Do mediations result in a reduction of resident moves? 
  • Are residents who complete roommate agreements less likely to have conflicts?

Collecting this baseline data can help you make more informed decisions. Revise your practice as necessary to help you get a handle on conflicts.

Roompact provides a number of tools to help you with roommate conflict, including a comprehensive Roommate and Suitemate Agreement module and an Ace Case that outlines practices you can establish to get a better handle on your data and gain deeper insights.

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