A FEW colleges and universities ask roommates to fill out contracts at the start of the year to encourage them to deal right away with potential areas of conflict.
At Wilson College, a small women's school in Chambersberg, Pa., students fill out contracts the first week of school. They are encouraged to deal with such issues as borrowing property, study hours, overnight visitors and cleaning.
Howard University also asks freshmen to turn in signed copies of their agreements covering similar ground, including such non-negotiable terms as paying one's fair share of the phone bill on time and keeping the room door locked "at all times."
The following are excerpts from the roommate agreement used at Howard:
I agree not to borrow my roommate's belongings without her/his consent and to be responsible for damage caused by me or my guests.
We agree to mutually establish study hours that respect each other's right to a quiet atmosphere free from loud music, T.V., guests, etc.
We agree to establish and maintain a regular clean-up schedule, including dusting and sweeping, cleaning the bathroom, making beds, and straightening up.
At Wilson, students are asked to complete an exercise that covers many personal habits and personality issues. Afterwards, they discuss the "how's, when's and where's" of the following list of issues as they apply to the student and roommate: lights-out; quiet time; food; clothes; room arrangement; smoking; visitors; privacy; cleaning the room; and boyfriends.
Housing officials at Howard and Wilson agree that the contracts are tools to resolve conflicts as well as to avoid them in the first place. "When the time comes to discuss an issue, it gives the aggrieved party something to stand on," said William Keene, Howard's dean for residence life. "It goes beyond 'I don't want you to do so-and-so' to 'We agreed to do so-and-so.' "