An effort to alleviate the anxiety that accompanies living with a stranger prompted UW-Madison to team up with RoomSync this year, a Facebook application that empowers incoming freshman in the roommate assignment process while preserving the educational benefits random roommate selection offers.
RoomSync allows prospective students to answer questions about their academic and recreational interests, lifestyle choices and sleeping habits to find other freshman with whom they could get along.
“From that point it’s on the person to reach out via Facebook to those people and see if they want to live with them or not,” Division of Housing Marketing Director Brendon Dybdahl said.
In this sense, the UW-Madison housing administration can satisfy students who prefer a more controlled arrangement while also preserving the “adventure” and broad-mindedness inherent in traditional random pairing for students interested in that experience, according to Dybdahl.
“That diversity of the experience is something that was for a long time viewed as a positive thing,” Dybdahl said. “Where if you get to pick your roommate, you may try pick someone who is just like you and you don’t get those different perspectives.”
Long-held opinions about how UW-Madison’s random system promotes inclusivity through the integration of new perspectives prompted Dybdahl to ensure the university will never fully institutionalize a roommate compatibility questionnaire.
However, he said RoomSync’s opt-in feature presents the university with the best of both worlds, in addition to saving time and money.
Approximately 30 percent of the freshman class explored the RoomSync service in its inaugural year and at least 640 students found their roommates, according to Dybdahl.
Although he did admit online compatibility does not guarantee two people will automatically relate, and while it is too early to empirically measure RoomSync’s success, he reported all the anecdotal feedback thus far has been positive.
Additionally, Dybdahl and current Kronshage Hall House Fellow Scott Memmel both said they feel confident in the university services available for when roommate conflicts do arise.
“I can only talk from personal experience, but I’ve never been in a situation where it didn’t feel like I had support,” Memmel said.
Memmel also said House Fellows are trained to facilitate conversations between two roommates, but there are more permanent options available if that initial contact fails.
“We generally won’t do anything until they talk to each other, try and hash things out,” Memmel said. “And then really after that point, it’s up to the residents if they want a room change.”
From there it goes to the assignments office and can be resolved quickly or drag on, depending upon the number of vacancies in campus housing, Dybdahl said.
“That process is always going to be limited by what spaces are available to shift people around,” Dybdahl said.
Albeit unaware of how many of his 78 residents utilized RoomSync’s services, Memmel had nothing but success stories to report.
“It’s been a very seamless transition it seems, and things seem to be going very well for the residents,” Memmel said.