The Blue & Gray Press Editorial Board
The Office of Residence Life and Housing needs to take roommate safety concerns more seriously, especially when assigning random roommates to vacant dorm rooms.
The terms and conditions of the 2021-2022 housing agreement state that UMW can fill an open room at any time. Residents already living in the space are supposed to receive an email notifying them of the change ahead of time, but the email often comes just a few days before the new roommate moves in, or no email is received at all.
Residents assigned to open rooms do not meet their new roommates before they move in, and they typically have no way of communicating with each other before having to live together.
The possibility of getting a random roommate will always be present with any open room, but residents should get an opportunity to contact their new roommates before they move in. In addition, Residence Life should take students’ preferences on the Housing Portal into account to check allergies and basic compatibility.
Being in a pandemic adds another concern: fear of exposure to COVID-19. For example, a roommate who takes minimal precautions should not be placed with an immunocompromised student. This is a serious issue that often cannot be resolved by a roommate agreement or mediation.
In the past, some students have received slow responses from Residence Life regarding these concerns. When students reach out because they are feeling unsafe in their living situation, they need immediate responses, not to be directed to the Talley Center. These reports need to be addressed without delay for the well-being of everyone involved.
For many students, the idea of living with a stranger is terrifying. In an educational environment, a high-stress living situation may negatively impact a student’s academic performance, as well as their mental well-being. Students should worry about upcoming tests, not their safety within their own home.