A Eulogy for the Random Freshman Year Roommate

Stuck in small room with someone different helps young people grow
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 29, 2011 1:44 PM CDT
Updated Sep 3, 2011 7:41 AM CDT
Getting stuck with this guy isn't all bad.   (Flickr)

(Newser) – Random room assignments were once a rite of passage for university freshmen, pairing Democrats and Republicans, party animals and studious nerds. But they're becoming a relic of the past, eliminated by a host of social networking websites that allow today's 18-year-olds to track down like-minded potential roomies as soon as they get their acceptance letter—and students are much worse off for it, writes Dalton Conley in the New York Times. Because "college-age students should be trying on new hats and getting exposed to new and different ideas," he argues.

In fact, a 2002 study found that white students who have non-white roommates were more likely to be open-minded about race. Prison and the military are the only other institutions Conley can think of that shove two people into a small space for months on end and expect them to get along. "Can you think of any better training for marriage?" he quips. "The drive to tame randomness into controllable order is a noble impulse, but letting a little serendipity flourish isn’t such a bad thing." And should you get stuck with someone you just can't stand? "You’ll survive, and someday have great stories to tell your future spouse, with whom you’ll probably get along better."

My Take on This Story
Show results without voting  |