The good, the bad and the dirty of random roommates

Illustration by Jessica Lee.



Considering your first college roommate could mean the difference between a horror story and a fairy tale when you tell your family about them. Hearing so many of the former and not enough of the latter can be pretty daunting.

Why do we hear so many of these bad roommate stories?  Is it due to the likelihood of ending up in that situation when paired randomly with someone your first year?  Or is it something else?

Doug Howell, the assistant director of Residence Life, considers Butler’s random roommate assignment system a big success.

“The questions that we ask get to the heart of the matter,” Howell said. “We judge, if you will, success in this area on the number of completely mismatched roommates that result in a blow-up.”

If the random roommate assignment system is considered such a big success, and has been in place since before Howell even joined Butler’s ranks in 2007, then how often do bad or ugly pairings happen?

“They don’t happen very often, and that’s how we judge success,” Howell said. “[Bad pairings happen] less than one percent of the time.”

If this does not come as a shock to you, you are probably lying.  Even we were surprised to learn this.  We heard about all the crazy roommate stories the same way everyone else did.

In light of this new information, we chose to look at the situation from the point of view of our majors.

Well, from a creative writing perspective, it has to do with selling a story.  Roommate horror stories are far more interesting to hear about than the good ones.  There is suspense, strong emotions and usually a lot of entertainment involved.

In a good roommate story, it does not take much to explain how well the two of you get along and will probably live happily ever after, the end.  And that is not a very fun story to tell or listen to.

From an international studies and historical perspective, people generally want to learn about the more controversial, interesting things.

For example, everyone talks about the Mexican-American border, but nobody mentions the fact that the Canadian-American border is the longest undefended border in history.

Those are two very different points of view to explain the same thing.  It is a way to show if you wind up rooming with someone very different from you, it is not a guarantee you will have a bad roommate experience.

That is what happened in our case.  When we met during our first year two years ago, we realized quickly that we answered the short questionnaire that currently serves as Butler’s esteemed random roommate assignment system oppositely.

All of our preferences were very different, and yet began our third year as roommates this semester.  How did we end up with a good story as opposed to a bad or an ugly one?  Howell boils it all down to being a good and accommodating person.

“I think what it really comes down to in the roommate world is, are you the kind of person who is open to being a good roommate?” Howell said.  “I think Butler students in general are good people, so when you put them into a difficult roommate situation they are able to see the other side and to be a good human being.”

At the end of the day, if you are open to compromising with your roommate and listening to what they have to say with an open mind, it will more than likely not end in flames.

You will probably continue to hear more roommate horror stories for the rest of your college career, and you will also probably hear less and less good ones.  But keep in mind that they are not all bad.

In fact, almost all of them are not bad.  As long as you are willing to communicate with your roommate and perhaps even become their friend, you will find yourself with a good story, a fairy tale, to tell your family the first time you go home.


Related posts