Conflict Resolution and Preserving Your Peace While Dorming

The tension is bubbling. You’re avoiding eye contact, strategically shuffling around each other’s schedules, and avoiding the room for anything other than sleep. It doesn’t matter if your roommate is random, a high school friend, or meticulously chosen from hundreds of possible roommates on Facebook or the UCSC Class of 2026 Instagram page.

Things get messy.

The important thing to remember is that unless the acts committed against you (or… by you) are egregious enough to call for a room reassignment, the two (or three, or *shudder*, five) of you are stuck together. Now you may ask: where do I go from here? 

If your roommate is encroaching on your space:

You’re feeling trapped. Your roommate keeps asking for the room to do it, or they have their stuff strewn onto your bed, or they just keep dumping their outside stress on you. How do you deal with it? 

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. 

Setting limits and sticking to them will be an important part of maintaining your physical and mental personal space. Ideally, if you are choosing a roommate, you can establish these rules before deciding to live together. If you end up in a random assignment, it will be beneficial to contact each other and discuss what you both need in a housing partnership before move-in. Additionally, discussing boundary breaches when they arise will mitigate larger arguments that may spring up later from festering emotions. 

RA advice: “The reason why you have to talk it out firsthand is so it doesn’t snowball and then you don’t start yelling at each other for stuff that really doesn’t have to do with the core frustration.” 

If your roommate is clingy:

You’ve set all the boundaries in the world, yet you still feel like you can’t catch a second without your roommate breathing down your neck. Usually this is a sign that your roommate has found comfort in you and may need help branching out a bit. This could be a tender situation, so approaching it with care is key. Being straight up and telling them to ‘touch grass’ is maybe not the best way to go about resolving the matter. You can get them to think about spaces they might be interested in joining. The entire school is their oyster, and sometimes people just need help seeing that.

RA advice: “Try asking them about their life. Or how’s school going? Are you joining any clubs? You made any friends and all that type of stuff? And if they say no then you know that they need to start going into things. That could include bringing them to a school event and helping give them a space to be themselves outside of the room.” 

If your roommate is a chisme (gossip):

You come back from a party and you call your best friend to tell them about how you met ‘the one.’ Your roommate overhears and the next day, everyone at Science Hill knows you have a thing for ‘the one.’ 

To Avoid This: When in Doubt, Vegas Rule

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas! Reinforce this in your prior roommate agreement. You should feel safe in your space. You and your roommate are probably going to know a lot about each other, and with that, the business discussed in your sanctuary stays in your sanctuary.

When This Happens: Discourse

If your roommate ends up being a chisme, sorry, you got to talk to them. This may feel overwhelming, but it can help set a precedent for times to come. A good way to approach these situations is with a calm deescalating demeanor. Be straightforward and real, and reinforce the Vegas rule.

“Hey (insert name here), I understand we are in a shared space and with that we lack full privacy. With that being said, because I would like this space to be safe for the both of us, I would appreciate it if we respect that and not breach our personal information to the outside world without permission.”                       

If you just don’t feel comfortable speaking freely around the roomie, there’s always the forest, single-stall bathrooms and, if you have it, your car. Also speak to your RA about it. They are trained for these exact situations and can help move the conversation forward.

RA advice: “The main thing with that is making sure you create that safe space. This is a room for a reason and when you talk to your friends about something, nobody else should have to know about it unless you want them to know about that. Everything you’re talking about here is stuff that should be between you, the other person, and your roommate should respect that this is your personal matter.”

When all is said and done, and you’ve finally used our advice and stopped avoiding your room, just remember, no one we’ve known has had or been a perfect roommate. All these tough situations aid in — pause for dramatic effect — character development.               

Things may get messy, but we clean up.