Disputes within dormitories seemed to be a trend between Sept. 21 and Oct. 4, according to the campus police blotter.
Three incidents regarding the dorms were reported that week alone. The first occurred on Sept. 23. Police received a call from a female student claiming that upon returning to her residence, her roommate had poured milk on her clothing, on top of her microwave and mini-refrigerator. At the time, the student did not want to press charges.
Another student claimed they were assaulted by an unknown individual while in a Blanton Hall stairwell on Sept. 27.
Officers responded to Blanton Hall in regards to a roommate dispute over splattered paint on a tapestry on Sept. 29. The paint splatterer refused to compensate the student for the cost. Then, her suitemate struck her roommate on the hip with their joining bathroom door. Residence life was notified of the above incidents. The student did not wish to press charges at that time.
This year is the first for many students, as they return to campus following the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Emily McCormack, a sophomore film and television major, was unable to spend her first year in a dorm because of the pandemic but is living in Blanton Hall this year.
“This is my first year living on campus and I have been very lucky with my roommate,” McCormack said. “I’ve never shared a room before, let alone with a stranger, so coming [here] this semester I was really worried. My roommate was assigned randomly and I am so lucky that we get along so well. My roommate and my suitemates have each lived on campus last year, and I have heard enough horror stories from them all to truly understand how good we have it this year.”
Roommate disputes are common, especially for freshmen and/or people who are not used to the prospect of living with a stranger. While some roommate disputes are minor, others can be more intense.
Mari Zuniga, a senior communication and media arts major, had a dispute with a roommate that resulted in disciplinary action.
“I’ve only had issues with one roommate,” Zuniga said. “Without me knowing, she burned incense in our dorm room. One day for inspections, [in which] I wasn’t present, the [resident assistants] found her tray still burning. We got into huge trouble and I had to attend a disciplinary court for it. I told them it wasn’t mine and I was cleared of all charges. I was also in the process of moving out because we didn’t get along.”
Zuniga said Residence Life should work on listening to students when they are having problems.
“I understand they truly try their best, but sometimes they don’t hear us out when we have certain issues,” Zuniga said. “But there [are] a few people at [Residence Life] who are actually pretty awesome and helped me when I needed it.”
According to Deputy Chief Kieran Barrett of the Montclair State Police Department, simple disputes not involving acts of violence of harassment are handled by Residence Life.
“Room partners are covered under the domestic violence laws of the state and any crime committed against each other may constitute an arrest situation,” Barrett said. “Those are rare, however, essential to be aware of.”
There are several steps students can take if they are experiencing issues with a roommate.
Disputes can be formally handled by Residence Life and prevented with mediation. It also provides a neutral party to handle these disputes in a timely manner and ensure that evidence is documented properly.
In case of emergency, it is best to take photos, video and audio as well as a written account of any harassment taking place. If the area has security cameras, be sure to note that in the report.
Talking about these incidents can be scary, and it can be best to talk over the incident with a friend. If additional support is needed, students can contact Counseling and Psychological Services. They can be reached at 973-655-5211.
If a serious incident occurs, contact University Police at 973-655-5222.