College roommates: managing close relationships in campus halls

By IAN LACK Reporter

There are an estimated 2,000 pairs of roommates living in 17 residence halls on South Dakota State University’s campus. With this number of students occupying a shared space, the dynamic of roommate relationships can be diverse.

Brady Debelts and Ryan Christie, both freshman undecided majors, make up just one of these pairs. The two began living together in Binnewies Hall in the fall of 2016.

“We weren’t the greatest friends in high school, but we were always sort of in the same group together,” Debelts said. “I think we’ve gotten closer since we’ve been here, though. We’re both in The Pride together and we hang out together with a lot of the same people.”

Debelts and Christie agree they are both laid back when regulating their room’s organization and managing their schedules in the room.

“We just kind of keep nudging at each other if we need something done or, like, if my side of the room is messy,” Debelts said. “We get along really well. It definitely helps that we knew each other from high school.”

However, not all students in SDSU residence halls have similar amounts of experience with roommates.

It is sometimes difficult to match students with an appropriate roommate due to SDSU’s campus size and diversity, said area coordinator for Residential Life Maggie Miller.

Often, students must prioritize whether they will live in their preferred residential hall or with a requested roommate. Other issues Miller considers include residential hall prices, whether or not students smoke and what their sleep schedules are like.

“Recently, we’ve started talking more about options to pair first year students,” Miller said. “We use a management system called StarRez that coordinates everything we do in terms of tracking occupancy and housing assignments.”

StarRez allows students to search for potential roommates who are similar to them, Miller said. The SDSU Admissions office also manages a Facebook page for incoming freshmen to get to know one another.

These platforms were created to avoid possible roommate disagreements. A majority of conflicts that arise between roommates happen because of issues involving control, said Ruthie Wienk, a doctoral student in sociology. 

“Most conflicts that I can see playing out involve controlling different things like space or sleep schedules,” Wienk said. “We should really try to encourage ourselves to keep an open mind and be aware that our way isn’t the only way. We have to be willing to accept differences.”

Wienk said she would characterize successful roommate pairs into two types.

The first type is social and would consider each other among their best friends. The second type is not as social and they do not meet often outside of their room setting. Surprisingly, the second type of roommates, “type B,” tend to have less conflict because they are more apt to take breaks from one another, Wienk said.

Freshmen pre-nursing major Skyler Berg and early childhood education major Hannah Smith agree that they fall into the “type A” roommates, but they have yet to experience any conflicts in their Honors Hall room.

The two met on the freshman Facebook page last year and made plans to live in Honors Hall together. Berg said now they do everything together.

“We have similar class schedules, we work together at Perkins and we have the same kind of circle of friends,” Berg said. “Maybe the key is [not to] room with a friend you already have, but with someone you could be friends with.”

Wienk agreed.

“People tend to develop more as individuals if they’re challenged more and if they learn from new, different people,” Wienk said. “Even if a roommate is completely different from you, keep an open mind.”