Dormitory life for the over-30: not everyone is young

PAUL CASTILLO

Originally Published October 2, 2006

Having a “problem” roommate is not an unfamiliar situation for many, especially when it comes to living in the dorms. Numerous conflicts can arise, from conflicts of taste to preferred levels of cleanliness. But how often is the problem a difference in age?

Mark Harris, a 38-year-old senior Cinema and Television Arts major, has certainly had this problem before.

He said it seemed like his roommates from his previous semester in the dorm felt uncomfortable around him.

“Obviously they found it awkward, but they didn’t talk to me about it,” he said.

Already this semester he has had to change rooms because his previous roommates, all of whom were 18, and their parents were uncomfortable with his presence, he said.

They tried to find a solution to their problem without him having to move out, he said, but in the end none of them would have worked.

“I don’t think there’s any way to tell someone, ‘We don’t want you living here,'” he said.

So Harris moved to a new room on a different floor, where he now shares a room with a 42-year-old student.

James Petersen, 18, a freshman jazz studies major, said the mature thing for the younger students to do in that situation would be to just live with the older students.

“We’d all like to be considered adults, so we should be able to deal with it,” he said.

One of Harris’ new roommates, Weston Kinney, 18, a freshman CTVA major, said the arrangement doesn’t bother him.

He said at first he thought they were the parents of his new roommates. When he found out they are his roommates, he felt a little weird, he said.

But now that he’s gotten to know them he said he feels differently.

“To be honest it feels really chill,” Kinney said. “(Their) age doesn’t matter at all.”

Lydia Redmann, 18, a freshman CTVA major who lives down the hall from Harris and Kinney, said age shouldn’t matter.

“The school doesn’t have an age limit, so I don’t think the dorms should either,” she said.

Mike O’Neal, the Community Coordinator for Learning and Assessment, said CSUN doesn’t ask the age of an applicant to the dorms, and he doesn’t think they legally can. O’Neal said while returning students tend to congregate, the majority of residents in the dorms are 18- or 19-year-olds.

“Students typically leave after one year,” he said.

Harris said he really doesn’t have many other places he could go. Since he has been disabled by nerve damage in both of his arms, he said he can’t get a regular job.

Instead, he goes to school, so he can hopefully get a job he will be able to do with his disability, he said.

“I’m an unemployed student. Where am I supposed to live?” he said.

Redmann said she was fine with Harris and his roommate living down the hall, likening the dorms to an apartment building.

Jordan Smetzer, 18, a freshman theater major and CTVA minor, and her roommates, who live down the hall from Harris, are comfortable with Harris and his roommates in the dorms.

“If they were to put people in an awkward or inappropriate situation, that wouldn’t be OK,” she said.

Smetzer said there are probably places where Harris would be more comfortable, though.

“If I was 30, I would hate to live with us,” she said.

Petersen said there are definitely situations where an older person is “the coolest roommate to have, but it’s unlikely.

“What if you had a guy like Rodney Dangerfield living with you?” he said. “That would be (awesome).”

Many students interviewed, like 19-year-old freshman psychology major Melanie Grodzienski, said they thought it would be like living with a parent.

“I’d feel like I would be living with someone who is like my mom, but doesn’t have the authority to be my mom,” she said.

At first, Kinney was worried his roommates would try to act like his parents, but has since found out that all they’re here to do is concentrate on school, he said.

“It’s like living with a cool, older person who knows his (stuff),” he said.

While it isn’t exactly the usual dorm lifestyle, he said there are advantages to living with students older than the norm.

He said his roommates are clean, considerate, and usually keep to themselves.

Kinney said his parents were shocked when they first found out the age of his roommates, but have gotten used to the idea. They even like it because he’s “not so rambunctious.”

“Since I was cool about it, so were they,” he said.

Kinney said he doesn’t care how old dorm residents are.

“I’m not here to make judgments,” he said. “He’s just here to go to school.”