Roommate Mediation


Being a roommate comes with many responsibilities, and the staff in the Residence Life Office believes that the experiences shared through being a roommate are valuable and essential to a student's college education and development.

The following is the Luther College Student Handbook description of the room change process:

Room changes are permitted for students if and when roommates are having adjustment problems and for other special circumstances. Prior to a room change being approved, students are expected to have made a good faith effort toward resolving the roommate situation. This includes discussing the situation with the Resident Assistant or professional staff member, and completing a roommate conference if requested. Four basic criteria must be met for a change to occur:

  1. Student(s) involved have attempted to resolve the roommate situation.
  2. Vacant space is available.
  3. Students affected have consented to the change.
  4. The Residence Life Office has approved the change.

Roommates are encouraged to have continuing discussions in regards to their needs and expectations for the space they share. The following is a list of steps that the residence life staff use when assisting residents in a discussion regarding roommate compromises and expectations (a roommate conference).

Roommate Conference

Despite the tensions that may be present, it is never too late to sit down with all roommates and discuss concerns. Nearly all roommate issues are because of poor communication and poorly conveyed expectations. Set up a time when all roommates can be present, and discuss the things that are causing tension. Let your Resident Assistant know about the situation, and invite them to be a mediator if you wish it. Before you start, set up these ground rules:

  • Use "I" statements; take responsibility.
  • Only one person talks at a time.
  • Voices should remain calm and low.
  • Maintain eye contact with each other. You may need to develop trust.
  • People should only speak about relevant facts. No innuendo or character defamation should occur.
  • Address specific behaviors; do not generalize.

After ground rules have been established, the mediation process begins. Each person should make a brief opening statement to define the issues as he or she understands them.

Define the issues that need further discussion and negotiation. Remember, encourage each other to speak in specifics.

Develop options that will alleviate the issues of concern. Recognize the needs and interests of all parties. Many conflicts occur not through misunderstandings, but when one party understands the needs of another party but is judgmental of and devalues the needs of that party.

Finalize the process by developing an implementation plan. This plan should detail the specific responsibilities of all parties in writing. It can take the form of a roommate contract, or a revision of one done previously in the year. The plan should include the following:

  • It should provide a framework for carrying out the plan.
  • It should define how to ensure that all parties are following through.
  • It should provide alternative ways of handling the dispute if it should continue.
  • The final plan should be acceptable and agreed upon by all parties. If so, it should be signed, and distributed.

How to Deal with Future Changes

The Residence Life office firmly believes that if these steps are taken and adhered to, the majority of roommate relationships can be repaired and blossom further. However, in the case that these attempts do not alleviate the situation, roommates should re-inform their R.A. about the situation. The R.A. and hall director/area coordinator will decide what further steps to take.

Should a room change become necessary, read about the Room Change Process.