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Roommate agreements are a common feature of many residence life departments. Agreements are typically a shared document that includes a number of questions and prompts roommates must collaborate on together to answer. These agreements can be an effective strategy to help residents navigate their roommate relationship, mitigate potential conflicts, and work through conflict if it arises. When designing a roommate agreement and the process by which residents will complete them, here are three tips to keep in mind:
1. The process is more important than the questions.
How you introduce roommate agreements to your residents, and the process you create to help them complete it, is often more important than the questions you ask in your agreement. It is through meaningful reflection and dialogue that an agreement has the greatest likelihood of success. Too often, agreements may be given to residents at the beginning of the year with no context or guidance. This often results in residents rushing through the document without giving it much thought. Rather than simply providing the residents with an agreement document, consider having a facilitator help your residents work through it. Student staff members could be trained and used as guides throughout this process.
2. Go beyond tasks and actions.
When you’re writing your roommate agreements, think about questions that go beyond just tasks and actions. An example of a task/action oriented question might be, “How often will we agree to clean the room?” Although these questions may be helpful, try to dig deeper and ask residents to reflect and express how they approach and work through conflict. The goal here is to give residents insight into each other and tools to work through decisions together. You may consider asking questions or providing prompts like:
- “When I run into conflict, I often get…”
- “When we have a disagreement, how will we resolve it?”
- “If something is bothering one of us, how should we bring it up?”
3. Agreements are living documents.
Roommate agreements are never complete. They are living contracts that residents should revisit on a regular basis to ensure their relationship stays on track. For this reason, you’ll want to re-introduce the agreement at various points through the quarter, semester, or year. If a conflict does arise, make sure you use the agreement as a tool to help facilitate a conversation about the agreement. Revise the agreement and make it available to residents to utilize in practice. An agreement doesn’t do any good if it sits on a shelf (or on a hard drive in the cloud).
Roompact’s software allows you to design, deploy, and easily access roommate and suitemate agreements for your entire campus. Take a look at the Agreement experience from the residents’ perspective: