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College Roommate Issues

In December of 2010, I wrote a blog about co-ed dorm rooms—where male and female undergraduate students share a dorm room. My advice was for students and parents to get as much information as possible regarding dorm life so that they can make informed decisions and not be caught by surprise by living arrangements. I was not passing judgment on the living arrangements, just suggesting that if this is an issue for your student, you should know up front what the rules and the choices are.

I am going to offer that same advice –being informed ahead of time regarding living arrangements –after reading this article in the Huffington Post.  This article is about an undergraduate student at NYU who lives in NYU housing.  She found herself living with a new roommate in the Spring semester and this roommate had a four year old child.  The child was not living in the room, but was allowed to be there under several circumstances. According to this article NYU’s Residential Life guest policy would allow the roommate to have her toddler, or any guest, stay overnight for a maximum of six nights a month and also be a guest for the day with no limits.

Mothers and their young children living in a college dorm was not news to me. Six years ago, in doing research for a class, I read an article that described several colleges that make accommodations.  However, these arrangements had the mother and child in a room and no other roommates. I have nothing but praise for colleges that will allow a student to live with her young child on campus so that the student can complete her education.

However, the situation this undergrad found herself in is different. The child was not technically living in the dorm room, but could potentially spend a lot of time there. It seems that she wasn’t asked if this arrangement was suitable or forewarned. The article includes the email that the student sent to NYU expressing her displeasure at the situation, part of which I quote below:

“I very directly addressed how I feel extremely uncomfortable with the situation for many reasons. I am a student and I do not feel as though I should be subjected to this kind of living arrangement. How can I be a successful student with a four-year old running around my study/living space? Assuming this student isn’t allowed to bring her son to class, why should student housing be any different?” She also brought up safety issues like medication or alcohol in the dorm room.

NYU did resolve this student’s issues but it certainly reinforces that students and families need to ask a lot of questions regarding housing policy.

Janet Rosier