Gabby Scott and Tara Khan move in to Willard Hall. Your roommate, like you, is a carbon-based, sentient being with messy emotions and a shifting identity.
Gabby Scott and Tara Khan move in to Willard Hall. Your roommate, like you, is a carbon-based, sentient being with messy emotions and a shifting identity. When shit hits the fan, remember to cut each other some slack. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

You've got a bud in Ombuds

Need a hand sorting out your torrid affairs? Call the CU Ombuds Office. They help with roommate conflicts or conflicts in any relationship, on of off campus. Call 303-492-5077 or visit

It's 2016, and the robot revolution is imminent. But today, we still have to deal with other human beings and their messy emotions. Especially when it comes to roommates.

During your years of dorm dwelling at CU, chances are you'll find yourself in more than one sticky situation (heyyo!) with cohabitants.

Here's how to live and let live, courtesy of Professor Heidi Burgess, director of CU's Conflict Information Consortium, and Boulder County psychotherapist Jen Phillips:


"When there is conflict, listen and try to find out what their point of view is," said Burgess. "You may initially think they're an idiot or a liar or all sorts of things, but if you listen, they likely have a reasonable point of view and a reason for their behavior or ideas."

"I like to be curious. That takes the judgment out of it," said Phillips. Ask: "How did you grow up? Who are you? What do you believe in?" she said, rather than judging a book by its cover. But remember: "In your late teens and early 20s, people are still figuring that out, and who you are itself can change, which makes it tricky, too."

Set boundaries


You have to decide exactly what your needs and wants are as a person and find where compromise is possible. Personal boundaries then need to be expressed, and not telepathically.

In the dorms, CU requires roommates to use My Room 2.0 to create a roommate agreement, which covers how the roommates will handle noise, visitors and cleanliness, and lays out how to handle violations of the rules.

"It's kind of like a pre-nup agreement, working out expectations and needs from the very beginning," Burgess explains. She said the contact gives you a tool in possibly awkward situations. "It's a great conflict-resolution instrument. All you have to do is say, 'Remember that agreement we have?'"

"(Laying out your boundaries) is going to feel awkward, and it's going to probably not be graceful at times," said Phillips, who notes that such intimate details rarely come up even in close friendships. Hurt feelings are normal, and getting over them is part of growing up.


Though most of us can melodically spell it along with Aretha Franklin, we have a harder time implementing the concept in real life.

"If you treat people with disrespect, it's a firebomb. They will lash back or withdraw and not deal with you at all," Burgess said. She advises roommates to give one another space to be themselves, judgment-free, whenever possible.

"Don't try to turn the other person into you. You can grow and learn from seeing how they're different and seeing what you might want to rub off on you a little or — 'Wow, I don't like that' — affirming what you don't want for yourself."

Almost never is one person right and the other person wrong. People are just different, and even different people can share an apartment or a dorm room peaceably (at a minimum) or joyously (in the best case). Simply keep a cool head — or take some space until you can — use your words and do your best.

"Just remember, this is temporary. When you're in it, it feels like it's forever, but a year isn't that long," said Phillips.

Shay Castle:

Kate Jonuska contributed to this report.