Four desks are jammed in a line against the same drab, white wall next to a bunk bed and a pile of dirty clothes. Open soda cans, leftover Chinese food containers and Charlie Chiang’s menus are spread on top of the microwave. Three roommates yell about a spill all over the floor.
It may sound a little chaotic, but despite their close living quarters, the women of Thurston Hall 511 said they respect each other.
“We have our problems, but we laugh a lot together,” freshman Shanna Gupta said.
Not all freshmen can say the same about their roommates. Thirty-seven freshmen submitted room change requests to Housing Services so far this year for a variety of reasons said Andrew Sonn, Director of Housing Services. This time last year, 50 freshmen had expressed dissatisfaction with their living accommodations.
“The smaller number may indicate the increased interest in living and learning communities and more precision with matching roommates compared to last year,” Sonn said in an e-mail.
Freshmen change their living situations for many reasons, he said. Roommate disagreements, religion or the all-night-party atmosphere of Thurston itself may provoke freshmen to change rooms or halls.
Before he began his freshman year, David Sommers requested a double in Lafayette. Because he was admitted early decision to GW, he said he was sure his request would be honored. Instead, Housing Services placed him in a quad in Thurston.
Because his room was not conducive to studying, Sommers submitted a transfer request a week ago to live in the Hall on Virginia Avenue as part of the Pressroom, a living and learning community for political communications majors.
Sommers said one of his roommates enjoyed playing his electric guitar at 1 a.m.
“In my room, sleeping and loud music times always conflict,” he said. Sommers said he often went to the library to study in a quiet atmosphere, but said he really wants the option to study in his room.
Sommers told his roommates immediately about his decision to move because he did not want to surprise them.
“Now they call me ‘Benedict Dave,’ like Benedict Arnold, the traitor,” he said.
Sommers said his roommates are unhappy about his move, because they do not want a stranger to replace him. He added he will be taking the sofa, chair and entertainment center to his new home, but hopes to leave on a peaceful note.
“I feel like I have given them a chance and it’s been fun,” he said.
The transfer process usually takes a week, Sonn said, “depending on the timing of the request and what rooms are available.” Housing Services processes transfer forms every Tuesday, trying to offer as many students as possible accommodations matching their requests. Students have until Thursday at 2 p.m. to accept or decline the offer. If they accept, students can move over the weekend.
“The more flexible students are with their preferences, the easier it is to accommodate their room changes,” he said.
Sonn said sometimes people request singles, and since there are few on campus, it is not always possible to meet those requests.
“All in all, we try our best to honor room changes as much as we can,” he added.
Freshman Amadi Nze said his roommate moved from their Thurston triple to Pelham Hall on the Mount Vernon campus. The triple was not conducive to his strict Muslim faith, Nze said.
“We respected him and got along, but it wasn’t working for him,” Nze said. “He prayed five times a day, ate certain foods, went to bed early and there were some complications with having girls in the room.”
Nze said his old roommate stops by once in a while to visit and does not harbor any hard feelings.
Unlike Nze, two of Matt Streiseld’s roommates in his Thurston quad seem to have hard feelings toward their fourth roommate.
“My one roommate fought with the other two about a box of Ritz crackers,” he explained. “The other two wanted some crackers and he refused to open them, so now everything comes back to that.”
Streisfeld said that if his roommate wants something now, the other two will simply say, “No, you wouldn’t give us your Ritz crackers.”
“I’m pretty easy to get along with,” Streisfeld said. “But the others bicker a lot. They try to get me involved but I just don’t care.”
He said sometimes he goes out with his roommates, but recently he has been spending most of his time with his fellow Kappa Sigma pledges.
Housing Services randomly placed the women of 511 together based on preferences such as smoking or non-smoking and messy or neat roommate.
Gupta admits she would probably be better off living by herself, even though the girls get along.
The main problems in the room has to do with the close quarters, not with inconsiderate roommates. Gupta said many fights deal with people being loud, forgetting their keys and having to knock on the door late at night and spilling food on the beds.
“Sometimes people come in after a night of partying and they’re loud, but usually it’s entertaining,” Gupta’s roommate Allison Gunn said.
Gunn works at the Medical Faculty Associates, the business part of student health, she explained. She has to be at work at 8 a.m. every weekday.
“My roommates are pretty good about it,” she said. “They try to be quiet so I can sleep.”
Gunn said they all have learned to compromise, especially with cleaning up dirty clothes. She said she would like to live with one of her roommates next year or in a single.
Whether students bicker over crackers or loud music, they can turn to the Community Living and Learning Center, which “provides a lot of resources for students to use to talk, set boundaries and live with their roommates,” Sonn said. If the living situation becomes unbearable, students can find detailed room change instructions posted on the CLLC Web site.
Sonn advised students to give roommates a chance before moving.
“We do not allow room changes for the first two weeks so that students can be patient with their roommates and get to know them better,” he said. “The roommate experience is an important life lesson since roommate relationships often provide opportunities to meet someone from another state, region or perhaps country.”
Or, in some people’s opinion, another world.