View From South Campus: Perils of Room Draw

With four weeks left in my freshman year, I can’t deny it
anymore: this is the beginning of the end of the beginning. While I’d prefer to
spend the next few weeks in a pseudo-catatonic nostalgic haze, weeping for the
death of my childhood and with it everything I’ve ever loved, the parameters of
so-called “real life” require that I apply myself to a number of tasks
ultimately meant to ensure that I live a healthy and productive life for
years to come. (Though what’s the point
of living if you can’t stay a freshman, young and full of promise and bursting
with energy, transfixed by the beauty of the world and the dessert offerings at
Hoch-Shanahan? But I digress.) Among these tasks are the dutiful consumption of green
vegetables, the completion of a large volume of Religious
Studies homework and the rather ghastly decision-making process of next year’s
housing situation.

Okay, so, regarding that last bit, I actually have it
pretty easy. With an enviably low Oldenborg room draw number, by the time this
paper reaches your grubby little hands, the most difficult choice I’ll have
made this week is which Spanish hall common room best matches my stuff. For a
moment there though, I pictured myself in the thick of real room draw, pacing back and forth amongst the monolingual hoi
polloi, anxiously scrambling for—what? A single? A double? A friendship
suite?

Ay, there’s the rub. Friendship suites: you’ve got to
wonder if they were really conceived in good faith by well-meaning residential
administrators genuinely intending to bolster and strengthen friendship among
college students, or (this is what I suspect,
if that’s not self-evident) cooked up as a devious experiment, a final trial of
adolescence to ensure that we stay in our place as socially awkward, painfully
self-conscious teenagers while our superiors happily continue to run (and ruin)
the world. Then again, I’m the kid who once went on the record as willing to
bet that Student Health Services notifies the deans when someone gets mono so that the deans can
satisfy their voyeuristic impulses by tracing and mapping out suspected hook-up
paths. So I’ll be the first to admit I’m a Paranoid Parrot. The point is, while
the friendship suite concept looks cute on paper (“friendship—sweet!”), it
has the potential to destroy, well, friendships.

The way I see it, it was easier in high school. You knew
who your “friends” were. Sure, there were those kids you’d sometimes IM about
chemistry homework, and that one freaky ninth grader who rode the morning bus
with you and thought she was your bestie, but, generally speaking, there was
that core clan. Who knows how you met, but you ate lunch together, and you hung
out on the weekends, which was really saying something, because you had to
commit to calling those people. It wasn’t like it is here, where you can just
roll out of bed on a Saturday and find a million things going on and start
a-dabbling—at home, you tended to be forced by necessity to identify with a
particular “friend group.”

Here at
the 5Cs, we’re encouraged to identify with all
the things, to branch out and meet new people every day by involving ourselves
in any number of intersecting communities. This is all very well and good and
makes us feel really popular—until that terrible moment we have to choose
between rooming with our work buddies, people from our mentor program, our
fellow fill-in-the-blank majors or our hallmates from this past year. See
where it gets complicated?

College (or, at
least, a four-year residential liberal arts college) represents a synthesis of
academic life, home life and social life, and sometimes that feels more like a
bloody collision than anything else. In my experience, knowing a lot of people—having a lot of “friends,” if you will—can make a person feel mighty
lonesome at times, especially around room draw time when everybody’s slicing
themselves up into four-person suites and tentatively divvying up the leftovers
into groups of “bonus people.” (How can a person be “bonus?” It’s considerably
less important than the issue of “illegal” as a human descriptor, but same
basic semantic principle.)

And maybe that’s okay. Part of going to college is, after
all, supposedly becoming more “independent.” You might think that’s just
independence from mom and dad, but maybe it’s about learning to live in a
community and know a lot of people and maybe even stray into that scary
territory of “networking” and be okay without a “friend group.” It’s a little
terrifying, especially when something like room draw happens and people tend to
revert to that old high school clannishness. Feelings get hurt and fur flies
and it seems like kind of the end of the world, but chances are—and I’m just
guessing here—that it won’t end up being that big of a deal. Because, really,
when you run for office, nobody is going to care who you lived with your
sophomore year of college, unless that person ends up becoming a prolific
serial killer or something, or, worse yet, somebody with a better political
career than yours. So maybe it does matter.

I guess the point is, don’t feel too down if you can’t
get your act together in time for room draw, or you end up being “bonused,” or not bonused. It’s always dangerous
living with your friends anyway. And if they’re your “friends” and they didn’t
invite you to live with them, they will undeniably end up next to where there’s
yearlong construction going on or the water main on their hall will most likely
explode in the second week of the school year, because the universe works like
that. Worst comes to worst, you can always crash on the floor of my common room.

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