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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: How to be a good neighbor in your college dorm

Dirty laundry is placed above the laundry machines in Granville Towers on April 11, 2023. It is requested for residents to not leave laundry unattended.

Finally, you left your house and began living on your own. Or, did you? 

A 2013 study of 7,000 students shows that only have 9 percent of undergraduate and 18 percent of graduate students actually live alone. And students don’t seem to want to live alone, either — only 15 percent say it is ideal. 

Having a roommate is a normal part of many college students' experiences, and many students have experienced living in college residence halls. Every shared living space in a residence hall has certain rules — explicit or unspoken — that students are expected to follow. Being aware of those informal responsibilities can be the key to your and others’ happy and harmonious college lives.

Dorm rooms

Privacy and personal space can feel almost nonexistent in a traditional dorm room. A 2022 study found that nearly half of students surveyed aged 19 to 22 "reported 'frequent' or 'occasional' conflict with their roommates or housemates.”

To reduce tension, roommates should avoid loud activities that would disturb others from work and rest. It also means asking for permission before inviting someone over for an extended period. 

Another study reported that 94 percent of college students are sexually active, and "sexiling" is a notorious problem in college dormitories. Whether you are sexiling or getting sexiled, it is necessary to communicate with your roommate and avoid any awkward situations.

Their consent and comfort are as important as yours. Being locked out of your room isn’t fun. So, don’t take your roommates' “yes” for granted.

Messiness is another common complaint in dorm living situations. Make sure to clean up after yourself and keep shared spaces clean. This means taking out the trash and committing to the chores you agree to split with your roommate. 

Shared bathrooms

Most of the time, bathroom usage cannot be scheduled. It can be chaotic when everyone is scrambling to get ready, shower or whatever else simultaneously. Being aware of everyone’s routine and creating a workable schedule can ensure everyone gets to use the bathroom and be ready for classes. 

It's a unanimous opinion that shower drain hair is the world’s grossest substance. So, as you clean yourself up, please clean up after yourself. That means not leaving traces of hair in the shower drain or toothpaste in the sink, among other things. 

Laundry room

No one wants their clothes to be touched by others, nor do they want to handle others’ clothes. There is no simpler way to resolve this than setting a timer and grabbing your laundry when it is ready. It is rude to leave your clothes in the machine for a long time while someone else desperately waits to use it. 

But, if you are the one who has been waiting for a machine, give them a grace period of ten minutes to get to the laundry room. That means do not immediately remove others’ clothes when the machine stops. And after doing laundry, please throw away your dryer sheets and clean the lint trap rather than leaving waste everywhere.

Common spaces

Residential common areas are a primary venue for students to form social connections. Many have study rooms, kitchens, game rooms and even a screening room in Carmichael Residence Hall. When using shared space for group activities, be mindful of Quiet Hours, during which all residents need to be aware of the noise they make and how it could negatively impact their neighbors trying to sleep or study.

Also, clean up after yourself. Throw away the trash, wipe up the snack crumbs and return the tables and chairs to where they were before leaving the room. Many shared spaces, such as study rooms or theaters, require reservations. Make sure to reserve the room before you need it. And when your time is up, leave so others can enjoy it, too.

Being a good neighbor is the same as being a good person or friend. It requires the same principles of self-discipline, respect, consideration and, most importantly, good communication.


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