There are More to Roommate Contracts Than Meets the Eye!
By: Hannah Kissinger
The students at Walla Walla University were given a required contract to fill out with their roommates on Oct. 13, 2021. The contract contained interesting aspects including cleanliness of the room, music or movies being played out loud or with headphones, allowing other students to be invited into the room, and many other questions. A few of these points in the contract piqued my curiosity. Why were these contracts given? What is the reason behind the questions asked? Some students from WWU gave their insights and opinions to respond to these types of questions.
Jeremy Bocala, freshman computer engineering major, described how he felt about the contract. “I think it has the potential to reduce conflict as it is helpful and can prevent [conflict] from happening. However, I don’t think it’ll entirely work,” Bocala added, “It’ll contribute for some things, but it won’t eliminate some issues between roommates.” 
Bocala was one of the students who filled this roommate pact out because “it was required.”  Maya Nelson, freshman forensic psychology major, phrased the same reason as Bocala. So, what if a student didn’t fill it out? Micah Teehee, sophomore computer engineering major, was one of these students. “I felt that my roommate and I have established a good connection. We are already open with each other, and I didn’t think it was necessary given our current situation. If something is bothering us, we will tell each other,” Teehee confirmed. 
This statement, compared with Bocala’s, is important because it shows two sides of a story. If a pair of roommates already have a good and stable connection, understand each other’s boundaries, and are open to communication, what is the point in filling out the contract?
Wils Haffner, senior business major and resident assistant, responded to this question. “This is the first time we have done a mandatory roommate contract and the reason behind it was to start conversations between roommates because some students just can’t do conversation like that. It helps to define how one can help to start a healthy relationship with a roommate and the shared space between them,” Wils replied. 
However, sometimes violations of a contract happen, and RAs must take care of them in a timely manner. “All of the things that were filled in the contract will go to the RAs,” Wils responded. “The contract is a way to see into the roommates’ relationship and check up on the shared space. If they say they’ll clean it and it’s been messy for a while, then that’s an indication to us of what’s going on.”  Don’t be afraid to go to an RA or dean about a situation in a dorm room. If a point from the contract is being violated, like the cleanliness of the room, then bring it up to someone so it can be fixed.
If the roommates are new and don’t know each other well, or even if they are already comfortable with each other, the overall reason behind the contract was to incite conversation about a few things that need to be addressed within a living space. Asking these questions, like how clean the room should be kept, was intended to start a simple conversation between one roommate and another.
When my roommate and I filled out the contract, we had fun while doing so because we are comfortable and already know the answers to most of the questions. We know our boundaries and what we are both entitled to be doing with our room. Going through the questions allowed us to reflect and think about the room and what it needs while we live together. Even Natalie Holm, freshman bioengineering major, had fun figuring out the contract with her roommate. One question asked, “In the case of a violation of this contract we will…” to which Natalie answered, “our violation was to eat peanut butter M&Ms.” [6 & 7] They decided to have fun with the contract to make living together a blast.
Living together can be a challenge, but it can also be a good thing if “there is good communication because then living together can help get a better understanding of each other, especially if the two haven’t roomed together before,” as Nelson stated.  She is right—with good communication, conversations can start, and the roommate contract can be fulfilled to its original potential.
- Interview with Jeremy Bocala 10/26/2021.
- Interview with Micah Teehee 10/26/2021.
- Interview with Wils Haffner 10/27/2021.
- Roommate contract – Conard 3. Workplace Productivity & Automation Tools. (2021). https://bit.ly/3BC5CGk.
- Interview with Natalie Holm 10/28/2021.
- Interview with Maya Nelson 10/28/2021.