This advice was submitted by Rabbi Alex Ozar and Lauren Steinberg, OU-JLIC Educators at Yale University.
How do I handle blind roommate assignments when my roommate might therefore not be frum, or even Jewish?
At some universities, first year students do not get any input into who their roommates are. Instead, they fill out a form about their interests and preferences and the university assigns them to roommates. This can lead to some difficult situations. One of the students we work with, for example, was placed in a suite with roommates who like to go out drinking and partying most nights, loudly coming home early in the morning, while she hopes to go to bed early so that she can get up for minyan in the morning. A different student discovered, upon entering his new suite for the first time, that his roommate had several idols in their shared space. Even absent these extreme scenarios, explaining and maintaining standards of Shabbat and kashrut is imperative to maintaining one’s observance on campus.
You need to be aware that situations like those described above can arise. Consulting the OU-JLIC couple on campus for advice and halachic guidance can be very helpful, as can talking with more senior students who have likely had similar experiences. A student who has partying roommates can still be friendly with them and has found spaces where she knows she will not be disturbed. The student whose roommate had idols learned the relevant halachot. Although these situations are not ideal,if you think you can maintain your own standards, communicate clearly, and ask for help when you need it, having a blind roommate assignment need not stop you from choosing a college. You can choose to build a positive relationship with any roommate you are placed with. These experiences will help you in communicating and explaining the religious choices you have made as you move forward in your schooling and career.