No one cares about drunken, messy hallmates, or do they?

Originally Published: December 4, 1998 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: October 10, 2007
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Alice,

If no one in my dorm seems to care if students come in drunk, creating noise and messes, what can I do?

Dear Reader,

One of the challenges of college life is sharing your living space with other people, many of whom have different ways of living than you. It can be especially frustrating when these patterns cause friction or resentment. You say that no one seems to care if students come in drunk, creating noise and mess, but sometimes people are silent because they think they are the only ones who are bothered and don't want to be seen as a spoil sport or a complainer. While some noise and mess are to be expected, it sounds as though the frequency and level in your hall is pushing you over the edge and, as a member of your residence hall community, you are entitled to safe, habitable space to sleep, study, socialize, and thrive.

One action you can take is to speak with other students in your residence hall who might have similar concerns. You can also explain your observations and reactions to the Resident Advisers (RAs), Assistant Directors (ADs), or Graduate Assistants (GAs) for your residence hall. They will help you figure out some strategies to manage your concerns. (For example, you might work with your RA to post some signs or call a floor meeting to discuss community living, reminding residents that certain hours are "quiet hours," or making students aware of how to contact custodial staff if one is needed.) At Columbia, you can also speak with someone at the Office of Residential Programs at x4-6805 or the Ombuds Office at x4-1234; they can help you get information about University policies and procedures for managing these kinds of situations.

If there is someone in particular whose behavior is troublesome (i.e., your roommate), you could speak with her/him directly. Sometimes, people just need to be made aware of how you are feeling in order to adjust their behavior. If you choose to confront a particular person, try to catch them at a good time when they are not with other people or otherwise busy. You can be assertive and honest with your feelings and concerns, but try not to be aggressive or reprimanding towards the person. If you feel uncomfortable with this approach, your RA, GA, or AD also can help you talk with the person. Your RA, GA, or AD is also a great person to approach if you are concerned about your hallmate's alcohol or other drug use. Or, if someone you know seems to have problems her/his alcohol or other drug use, you also can contact your University's Counseling Service for assistance (at Columbia, Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) at x4-2878). The following resources can provide assistance, referrals, support, approach strategies, guidelines, and other information you may find useful:

Best of luck resolving your problem! It may take some patience on your part, but hopefully you'll be able to reach a tolerable compromise. In the future, you may want to investigate some of the different housing options available; many residence halls offer substance-free floors or suites. While these living situations may not be problem-free, your newly acquired conflict resolution and problem solving skills can help you navigate future disputes. 
Alice