November 30, 2020

Roommates: The good, the bad and the messy

A bad roommate might burn a hole in your couch, start a small fire in the kitchen or break the thermostat to keep a room at 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

April Berryman, junior film production major, lived with a roommate who did all of that in the Webster Village Apartments during fall 2011 and spring 2012.

“I had never met someone so disgusting in my entire life,” Berryman said.

Students who live on campus at Webster University pay $2,025 to $3,865 for room and board. Some students pay that amount to live with a roommate who eats their food, doesn’t clean their own mess and doesn’t show respect.

Berryman’s experience last year wasn’t the first time she had a roommate that didn’t work out. Her first semester at Webster, Berryman lived in Maria Hall. Berryman was paired with a random roommate then, based off her compatibility survey. Berryman and her WVA roommate selected each other mutually prior to the fall 2011.

The survey asks students questions pertaining to the way they live comfortably. The goal of the survey is to match the student with the best possible partner.

“We have a computer system that matches up students who have the best compatibility based on their answers to the survey, but some we do hand-select,” said Chris Rice, community director of the Webster Groves campus. “Nothing is perfect, but it has helped us house students based on the important things.”

Berryman, along with other students, thinks it is a fair system, but there could be a more effective process.
“It is the best that I think they can do,” said Chole Hall, a sophomore media communications major. “In a perfect world, it wouldn’t be good enough at all.”

Berryman believes a better way to match roommates would be to have students to write essays explaining how they live comfortably.

“We have to write essays just get into the school, and I would write like two or three different essays,” Berryman said. “It wouldn’t have to be a formal one, but just a list of stuff.”

However, the university has students in desperate need of housing. In those cases, the matching system isn’t as large a part of the process. Transfer students, international graduate students and others waiting to move in are put in the best possible place, causing less compatible matches.

Hall had a student placed in her room mid-semester after Hall’s prior roommate dropped out.

“At first we got along, but we were just super different people and we weren’t matched,” Hall said.

After multiple meetings with their Residential Assistant, Hall and her roommate set up a meeting with Rice to discuss a possible room change. In that meeting, it was brought up that Hall’s roommate requested on her survey to not be placed with a smoker. Hall said the switch was made so quickly that within four hours, her roommate was placed into another room.

“I think if the smoking allergy wasn’t involved, then we wouldn’t have been able to switch,” Hall said. “And that is what I have a problem with.”

Rice said on average, five to 10 students switch rooms each semester. Students requesting a room change are charged a $75 fee — depending on their reason for switching. The charge is for the extra housing paperwork and cleaning of the room. In Hall’s case, her roommate didn’t have to pay the fee due to the smoking issue.

SELECTED QUESTIONS FROM ROOMMATE SURVEY - Incoming students who will live on campus fill out a roommate compatibility survey. Housing and Residential Life uses the survey results to pair students that share habits and traits. GRAPHIC BY VICTORIA COURTNEY

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