Each year, as winter melts into spring and our attention shifts toward the next academic year, the ugly issue of house and home rears its head.
“I just can’t room with him anymore. Being sexiled is not a lifestyle.”
“If she’s out of the suite next year, I’m in. Otherwise I’m going for the standalone single.”
“We’re just going to fake a fight. And then halfway through we’ll just say, ‘That’s it! You can’t live with us next year!’”
These quotes — words I actually heard in different butteries around campus — are indications of the chaos Yale’s housing process kicks off.
The housing process — in my residential college, at least — starts innocently enough, with a reminder email from (this year) our affable sophomore housing reps. “Given that this is everyone’s second time around, we hope that this is a fairly stress-free process,” their email read, with little indication of the problems to come.
Those opting out of on-campus housing escape the restrictions of fixed suite arrangements, but for others, going for the “12-Pack” soon becomes a tactical endeavor in eliminating possible competitors. Singles, good lighting, large common rooms and basement access quickly become prized commodities, as prospective residents tour suites, noting down the pros while running through all the permutations of the housing draw in their heads.
But the rooms are only one consideration — more immediate, and more pressing, are the people. Coming into Yale, we were randomly assigned a set of suitemates, who likely all checked the middle box on the “How much do you think of a suite as a social space?” spectrum. We got to know them over the course of a year, and learned to love them, or began to hate them, or ended up somewhere in between. The housing draw is freedom from the situation Yale imposed on us; it is the liberty to make our own decisions about our own lives. But freedom comes at a cost.
Niceties, sympathies and good intentions are cast aside in favor of the desperate pursuit of the perfect set of living mates. Seemingly innocuous issues — a tendency to leave clothes on the floor, an aversion to taking out the trash — are now major sticking points, the deal breakers that justify cutting people out and making some enemies. Conversations turn from accommodation to negotiation — rather than focusing on inclusivity, we focus on the easiest and least awkward way to eliminate the unwanted link.
In housing, ruthlessness rules.
In some ways, the housing process can be overwhelmingly positive, as it forces us to encounter and examine our strengths and flaws. We learn that different people have different preferences, and that being out of sync with our suitemates is not just common — it is normal.
But often, the housing process provokes tension and self-doubt in equal measure. Going through the housing draw for the second time, I cannot help but view the draw as a necessary evil — one in which you do what you have to do in order to best serve yourself. In the struggle to juggle friendships, living habits and suite limitations, there is often an odd man left out, either excluded from his old suite or not included in a new one. The dog-eat-dog nature of the process ensures that one person’s preferences may only be satisfied at the expense of another’s.
We justify our maliciousness through a multitude of trite statements: “He’s old enough to take care of himself,” “I’m not responsible for her well-being,” “We can’t all be happy.” There is undoubtedly merit in taking charge of your own situation to the best of your ability. But to do so without regarding another’s feelings is callous and speaks to a lack of empathy. We should value the sensitivities of our suitemates over our often unrealistic aspirations of perfection.
Consideration and communication are essential to smoothing out what is inevitably a turbulent process. When forming our suites we must act with equal measures of sense and sympathy, of logic and lenity, of good sense and goodwill. We must eradicate the ruthlessness that defines the ways we choose how to live. We must end some fights — fake or otherwise — before they begin.
Mrinal Kumar is a sophomore in Silliman College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .