Given limited social opportunities this year, the Office of Residential Life and Learning plans to initiate events and utilize a new connection platform to help current first-year students meet and interact with potential future roommates.
Nadia Vargas, associate director for residential education, wrote in an email to the Daily that COVID-19 restrictions have increased students’ need for support during the roommate search process.
Angy Sosa, associate director for residential operations, explained this further.
“We do anticipate students needing assistance with determining housing options or finding people to live with if they do not have a group,” Sosa wrote in an email to the Daily.
Paige Duff, a first-year student, shared some of her personal observations about campus social life this past year.
“I think it’s really hard because a lot of people on campus … like freshmen this year … only have a few really really strong connections with other people,” Duff said.
Although the restrictions have not significantly affected Duff’s social experience, she detailed how they could make meeting new people more difficult for others.
“I consider myself pretty outgoing, I like talking to new people, I like meeting new people … but I know a lot of people on this campus who aren’t comfortable just reaching out to someone,” she said. “My mom is on this Facebook group and people have literally [said] ‘My kid is having such difficulty making friends because of [the pandemic] that they don’t have anyone to live with.’”
Izzy Martinez-Merlos, also a first-year student, expressed similar sentiments.
“I think it’s pretty difficult [to meet people outside of your dorm], just because most of the classes are online and there are a lot of COVID restrictions … and not just meet new people, but also get close to them,” Martinez-Merlos said.
Martinez-Merlos said she has been able to form a housing group with students she met on the floor of her first-year dorm.
ORLL is aware that there are many students who have not been able to find their communities yet. Vargas said that ORLL will be organizing ways for students to meet in advance of the selection process. She added that the events will be open to all students, since this concern may affect students in other class years as well.
“Finding roommates can impact all class years, so we will be offering opportunities for students of all class years to connect and find roommates for next year,” Vargas said.
Tim Jordan, assistant director of residential education for the continuing student area, outlined the two main ways ORLL plans to support students with their housing plans for the 2021–22 school year.
“Our current plan is to address these concerns on both a micro and macro level,” Jordan wrote in an email to the Daily. “On a smaller scale, we are working with our RA staffs to create event outlines that they can carry out for their floors if they see a need within their community.”
On a larger scale, Jordan explained that students will be able to use the new platform to connect with others.
“We will launch a platform in the next few weeks where students can input some of their room preferences and view students who are in a similar situation to themselves,” Jordan said. “This will allow students to consider various options and open up conversations about possible matches.”
Jordan also said there will be events open to Tufts students without roommate matches.
“We will also be hosting several events open to Tufts students who do not have a roommate match,” he said. “These events will aim to educate about the process and provide conversation opportunities for students to find a roommate pair or pairs.”
Josh Hartman, director of residential life and learning, discussed the role of resident assistants and virtual bonding activities in helping students connect with their residential communities during the pandemic.
“There has been an ongoing iterative process in terms of community building during a pandemic,” Hartman wrote in an email to the Daily. “As a result, we have learned a lot more about how to create meaningful virtual opportunities for residents and hope to apply those lessons both this semester and in the future.”
He expanded on how this process will progress.
“We will continue to gather feedback from our residents and RA staff to create safe and engaged communities through neighborhood meetings, weekly reports, one on one meetings and RA Roundtables,” Hartman said.
In terms of the lottery system, which involves a random generator that determines students’ housing options, David Watts, assistant director for housing services, explained that the process will remain largely the same since it has been an entirely virtual process for several years.
Duff explained how the lottery system may amplify challenges for students to find a suitable residential group.
“I think that the lack of flexibility when it comes to the number of people in a certain place makes it really hard because if you got a group of seven people, and someone’s lottery number only … ends up making it so that you can get a place for six, someone’s got to go,” she said.