Working in a residence hall, you come in contact with a lot of scenarios where you have to deal with heated situations. I have seem my fair share of anger being shown in multiple scenarios, but mainly during roommate conflicts. Although these emotions have not always been directed at me, I have still gotten a fair share of curses, raised voices, and an occasional door slamming. I would be crazy to say that I enjoy these interactions (not many people do), but I should mention that I take these bad situations on occasion because the positive interactions far outweigh the negative.
With that being said, I wanted to talk about the different types of anger I have seen in this job and try to explain the reasoning behind them to someone who may not work in residential living. Before I go any further, I would like to mention that the scenario below is not about anyone or any specific interactions in particular, simply an observation of how the average scenarios play out in some of the buildings I've worked. This commentary should be taken with a sense of humor, I do not mean to disrespect anyone and my slightly sarcastic tones and satire are primarily meant to poke fun at the odd world I live in. So without further ado, enjoy :)
Let's set the stage: Congratulations! You are a newly accepted first year student on your way to a bright future and a promising career. Sure you might be a bit nervous and unsure of yourself, but by the end of the year, you'll exit the hall confident and well on your journey to become a better person. This is the first time you have been away from a guardian for an extended period of time and it feels great! You are suddenly granted a new level of freedom from certain rules and have the liberty to create relationships and spend your time on your own terms. In retrospect, you really have no idea how to manage these new resources and issues, but you're sure things will work out in the end.
The key players: From this point, there are two main interactions you will face within the residence halls which could cause some heated emotions, the interaction with the residential staff and the interaction with the roommate. Let's start with the res staff interaction.
The Villain: With this new degree of freedom mentioned above, you assume college will be just like the images seem on TV or in movies. There are crazy parties 24/7, there are no repercussions for your actions, and every administrator is an evil fun-sucking robot who have no control over a situation or will give in and let you do whatever they want in the end. You've watched Animal House, Old School, Van Wilder, or any other "college themed movie" over a hundred times and the message is all the same! Let's start the party! Before you even get your feet off the ground and try to hook up with the cutie who sits behind you in the course you've been to every once in awhile, the RA is breaking down the door and writing you up for underage consumption! You don't take too kindly to this new voice of authority, especially from someone who is not much older than you. Automatically you have labeled any possible staff member the "bad guy" who is "out to get us" and have no interest in the betterment of your "college experience". You've sworn to always disrespect the RA from here on out by tearing down their bulletin board and being loud during quiet hours! No one tells you what to do! Just make sure they don't catch you again...
The "Best Friend": The other interaction is with the new roommate. Sure you come from a household where you either have your own room or shared a bedroom with a close family member who was raised on similar beliefs or had a similar background, but how different could this experience be? With the combination of this and the influence from the fun college movies mentioned above, you firmly believe that you just moved in with your new best friend! This best friend will share the same interests, are excited to share all of their personal items, and can talk for hours about potential new relationships that may form from the crazy party you went to last night. It creates a big blow to your reality when the roommate may not share a similar background or may not be interested in forming the kind of relationship you want. As a result, you don't know how to handle this conflict of interests, but also don't want to ruffle any feathers... What if you try to hint at possible changes the roommate could make to start fitting into your preconceived mold?
Trouble in Paradise: So how do you try to change someone who does not want to be changed? Without wanting to create any conflict, you will then try to send a message to the roommate through the route of least resistance, which might be a sticky note, a tweet, Facebook status, or a sweet message on the mirror to remind them to clean up the dirty dishes that have been sitting out for the past month. To your roommate's surprise, this is the first time the issue has been brought up and now because it has either been shown publicly for all to see, or is misinterpreted due to the lack of tone and emotion behind the message, a passive aggressive relationship is formed. The roommate then retaliates with another passive aggressive comment and this will then go back and forth, gaining momentum, until one of two options are decided on, trust the RA or hail the "mother-ship".
Option one: The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend: Things are starting to fall apart fast and the easiest way to clean it all up is get rid of the conflict altogether. You feel very proud of yourself for coming up with the idea of moving rooms and go to the RA/RD for help with this procedure. Sure this is the first time you have even come to the staff about this problem, but they hold the power to magically get rid of the issue! To your surprise, instead of going with your great idea, the staff will give a lecture about the real world not working that way and you have to learn how to work with people who are different than yourself. They even had the audacity to ask if you ever talked to the roommate in person about your problem instead of leaving notes! Maybe the staff really are the main villains after all! They offer some assistance with a mediation session, but you know that it would never work, it's not like they were trained to handle those kind of meetings or anything! So you decide to go with your second option.
Option two: Get to the Chopper: You've heard the term "helicopter parents" before, but you don't really think that term applies to your family! Your parents have always been there for you in your time of need, so how could this endeavor be any different? They love you very much and it angers them to hear how rude your roommate has been and how the staff won't fix the problem. There is no telling how high this tyrannical system may go, so it only makes sense to go to the top in order to get the fastest action! You've told your parents how you have done everything you could possibly do and it could never be your fault this conflict even happened. You even went to your RA for help and no help was given! So the only thing left to do for the parent is get your message across by screaming into the phone or writing their own strongly worded email to the administration about how terrible their staff really are. Maybe that will fix everything.
I apologize for the heavy tones of sarcasm in the end, I think I was having a bit too much fun with the story. After reading this, it may be easy to consider that things like this never happen...this scenario usually happens approximately twice a year in almost every building on campus for all of the schools I have worked (not just my buildings). I should mention it is not the student's fault that the situations happen, but it is important for them to enter college with an accurate understanding of what college will be like and how to handle this environmental change (including skills on how to communicate). In addition, it should be noted that the staff is always available to help and it is best to nip a problem in the bud before it because bigger than it should have ever been. We really are here to help you grow and even if you do get written up, we are still here for you in time of need of anytime at all!