Jul 05, 2020

Culture clash between roommates

A study found that dorm mates are twice as likely to want change, if interracial

Students who live in the dorms may have to deal with a situation they didn’t expect, living with a roommate of a different race.

A study from last year at Ohio State University and Indiana University found that randomly assigned interracial roommates are about twice as likely to ask for a room re-assignment as same-race roommates.

Gonzalo Aranda-Sandoval, 22, has been a resident advisor at the Fresno State dorms for over two years, and has lived at the dorms all four years he has been attending school. He has seen firsthand the difficulties that can arise from living in the dorms.

“There are a ton of different people here with different backgrounds from a lot of different places,” Aranda-Sandoval said. “You have to deal with a lot of diversity.”

Aranda-Sandoval said that getting adjusted to living in such a diverse population within the dorms can be hard for some students. He said cultures sometimes clash and can make roommates uncomfortable enough to ask for re-assignment.

“It may not be that they hate that culture personally,” Aranda-Sandoval said. “It just might be awkward and different. It may be less of a hate thing and more of a comfort level.”

With so much diversity in the dorms, University Courtyard, which operates the facilities, educates the staff and residents to accept diversity.

“Before every semester, we go through two weeks of training,” Aranda-Sandoval said. “It’s like conflict training. That’s what we usually handle here.”

Aranda-Sandoval said that the staff attempts to have the roommates resolve any issues before re-assigning them to different rooms.

“Sometimes they don’t even try to explain their issues,” Aranda-Sandoval said. “We say, ‘Let’s go try to talk it out with your roommate. You have to try to communicate at least.’”

Aranda-Sandoval said it can be especially hard for foreign exchange students to integrate into the campus community.

“[For] an exchange student who doesn’t speak English very well, it may be hard to communicate,” Aranda-Sandoval said. “Or within their culture they are freer with certain things. Then someone will get a little frustrated at times.”

Moving a student to a different room can be very hard in the dorms, which are usually full to begin with.

“Logistically, sometimes it can be really hard and at that moment in time we can’t move them,” Aranda-Sandoval said.

Aranda-Sandoval said University Courtyard takes measures to ensure that diversity is accepted and all cultures are respected.

“I haven’t seen one instance where they [University Courtyard] have tried to segregate or anything like that,” Aranda-Sandoval said. “They’re really about building a community as a whole.”

Dr. Matthew Jendian, a sociology professor at Fresno State, understands that problems can arise when diverse groups are in contact with each other, but are not working together.

“You can have the most diverse campus or the most diverse community and still have a very segregated community or campus,” Jendian said. “Especially in college populations where we are used to a diverse society. But diversity and integration are two different things.”

Jendian said that integration refers to the degree to which diverse groups interact with each other and not just occupy the same space.

“If you just bring people together, prejudices may be increased,” Jendian said. “Especially in environments where you are competing for scholarships, you’re competing for jobs, for housing, whatever the reward is. If you’re competing, hostility and ethnic prejudices will increase.”

“Rather than ignoring that differences exist, we must acknowledge them,” Jendian said. “Then we must accept them. Do not tolerate difference, but appreciate difference.”

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