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Roomie Matches Made in Cyberspace

Roomie Matches Made in Cyberspace

Chicago Tribune

August 24, 2009

CHICAGO _ For Satit Koonopakarn, the gold dagger and book of chants were the first signs of trouble.

His freshman roommate at the University of Illinois at Chicago pulled out the items on move-in day, explaining that he was a Wiccan and liked to practice witchcraft. Months later, Koonopakarn said, he awoke during the night to find the roommate standing over his bed casting a spell.

“I was lying there thinking, ‘Please God, don’t let anything bad happen to me,’” Koonopakarn said with a chuckle.

Like most colleges with residence halls, U of I-Chicago makes an effort to pair first-year roommates who are compatible, often taking into consideration personality assessments and lifestyle questionnaires, among other factors. But some matches still result in disaster.

To minimize the horror stories, a small but growing number of schools are inserting online technology into the equation. They are setting up their own social networking sites, instructing students to create a profile and select a roommate for themselves _ like for dorms.

Assigned roommates have already seized on Facebook and Myspace as a way to learn more about each other. Colleges field complaints from students, and their parents, seeking roommate changes even before the school year begins. Loyola University recently heard from the mother of a student who pulled up a photo of her roommate’s house on Google Maps and deemed it too shabby.

While some schools are now trying to use the technology to their advantage, other schools are pushing forward with traditional matchmaking, insisting students need to branch out of their comfort zones and experience diversity.