Managing Conflict

Roommates Need to Talk to Each Other…

Your roommate can help define your college experience.  Whether it’s an old friend or someone you’ve never met, having a roommate will give you the chance to learn something new about yourself and about other people.

Have you ever tried to imagine what your college roommate will be like? We would all like to think that we would become best friends with our roommate. The fact is, however, that the two of you may be different and it may take work to develop a good relationship.

Often, it is hard to talk about differences when you and your roommate are first trying to get to know each other. If you intend to live together happily, you need to realize and resolve your personal differences early in the relationship. To help with this process, all residents are required to complete a Roommate Contract with their roommate(s) and their RA within the first session of classes.

Topics of discussion include, but are not limited to:

  • Expectations surrounding cleanliness
  • When guests are welcome in the room
  • Expectations surrounding noise and use of room

When Conflict Happens – The Student Role

Unfortunately, no relationship is perfect and disagreements are going to happen. Some conflicts may be resolved with an honest conversation, but some conflicts require a little help from an RA.
Here are some steps you can take when conflict occurs:

  • Take a step back. When you’re upset at your roommate, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and escalate the situation. Take a step back from the situation and ask yourself why you are upset and what you want to do about it.
  • Have an open and honest conversation. Sometimes, your roommate may not even know that there is an issue. One of the very first steps in any conflict is to discuss your concern honestly and directly. Remember, you’re confronting the behavior, not the person.
  • Get some help. If a conversation with your roommate doesn’t improve the conversation, talk to your RA. All of Spalding’s RA have been trained in conflict management and are equipped to help you navigate the waters of roommate conflicts. Remember, your RA will not talk to your roommate for you and will not take sides – they are there to be a resource.

When Conflict Happens – The Parent/Guardian Role

When your student is in college, it can be hard for parents when their student has a conflict. Try to remember that roommate conflicts are normal and common – almost no one escapes college without at least one!
Here are some ways to encourage and support your student:

  • Listen to and support your student. Your student is likely upset and needs someone familiar to talk to. Let them talk, but don’t be afraid to remind them that every conflict has two sides and that everyone has a different point of view.
  • Encourage your student to talk to their roommate directly and honestly. As your student becomes an adult, it is important for them to experience managing conflict with others.
  • Encourage your student to talk to their RA. All of Spalding’s RAs are trained to handle roommate conflicts and can be a great resource for students in many different situations.

Contacting Residence Life yourself:
When your student has a conflict, it can be hard for you as a parent to sit idly by. Many parents feel the urge to protect their children from disagreements and will want to fix the problems themselves. When this happens, here are some steps for parents to take:

  • Take a step back. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the situation and focus on the fact that your child is upset. Take a moment (or a few!) to evaluate the severity of the situation.
  • Ask your student if they want you to contact Residence Life. Many students are embarrassed when they find out that their parents have contacted Res Life. If your student says yes, take a moment to determine if it is beneficial for you to call or if your student is trying to get someone else to manage the situation because they are afraid of conflict.
  • Remember that your child is an adult now. Before calling Residence Life, familiarize yourself with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (link to During a roommate conflict, Res Life staff cannot discuss specific details about the situation, but are happy to review the conflict management process.
  • If you have a concern about your student’s health or safety, please do not hesitate to call us. We always have your student’s best interests in mind and take bullying situations very seriously.

When Conflict Happens – The Residence Life Role

Many students are a little unsure of what will happen if they talk to their RA about a roommate conflict.  They often wonder who else will find out and what exactly their RA will do. Here are the steps RAs take when students disclose information:

  • Listen without judgement. Spalding RAs are trained to manage conflict and listen to residents. If you go to your RA with an issue, they will listen without judgement and will attempt to get the whole story from you.
  • Be impartial. In any roommate conflict, the RA is impartial. They will not take sides and will not determine who is right in the situation. RAs allow you a chance to vent and get some guidance about what to do next. RAs will not talk to your roommate for you or reveal that they have talked to you, as we take confidentiality very seriously.
  • Reporting.  RAs are part of a larger system of Residence Life and report to the Residence Life Coordinator. The RLC serves to help guide RAs on what to do next and can step in if the situation becomes serious. Information you tell your RA may go to the RLC and will only go to the Dean of Students if the situation warrants (i.e., if there is threat of harm).
  • Follow up.  If a student reports an issue to their RA, the RA will follow up with them. It’s important for students to be honest in the follow up (i.e., don’t say you’ve talked to your roommate if you haven’t) and let the RA know what has or hasn’t changed.

When Conflict Occurs – Switching Rooms

Sometimes, conflicts cannot be resolved and personalities do not mesh as well as expected. Students will not be released from their housing requirement in the case of a roommate conflict, but a room transfer process does exist. Students are not permitted to switch rooms during Session 1. If a student decides they would benefit from a room switch, they should follow these steps:

  1. Talk to your roommate and RA. When roommate conflicts occur, students are expected to have made reasonable efforts to resolve the conflict before switching rooms. These efforts include speaking to your roommate directly and asking your RA for assistance.
  2. Roommate mediation.  In many cases, conflicts can be resolved with a little assistance. Students may be asked to undergo a roommate mediation with assistance from an RA or a member of the Counseling Center.
  3. Formal Request. If all else fails, students may formally request a room change from the Residence Life Coordinator. Requests should be made via email and should detail why a switch is necessary and where the student would prefer to live instead. The RLC reserves the right to deny the request and ask for further efforts to be made.

Specific details about room changes:

  • Room changes are made based on capacity. Sometimes, switches can be made within a week of the formal request. Other requests may take longer depending on availability.
  • Pricing. Students will not be moved to a higher cost room unless they have specifically requested to do so or if no other options exist. If this occur, students will be notified in advance of the cost difference.
  • Room checkouts. When room switches occur, students are checking out of one room and into another. Students are expected to complete a checkout with their RA and will need to complete a Room Condition Form for their new room.
  • Room changes are not permitted on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, or political orientation. Unauthorized room changes outside of Residence Life policies will result in the student(s) involved being charged $100 for an improper room change, plus possibly moving back to his/her old space.


If you’re prepared to make some of these compromises, keep the lines of communication open and recognize how you can improve as a roommate, then you should be able to have a successful and fun time living in the residence halls.