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Roommate and dorm matching

During our discussion of matching in lecture, and the examples of pairing TAs to office hour times, I immediately thought of another example that is very relevant to college students – roommate to dorm matching. The roommate to dorms pairing system operates similarly to the bipartite graphs we have discussed thus far in class. On one hand, there is the diverse range of dorms we can pick from, and on the other, we have our preferences/valuations for our top dorms. In addition, pairing the actual roommates themselves includes the university pairing people together, based on loose questionnaires on lifestyle habits. While in most cases we can preselect our roommates, the truly random pairings utilize this matching technique.

In Duke’s case, they have moved on from roommate requests to solely sticking with random roommates. By taking full control over the roommate selection process, Duke hopes to break the homogeneity in Duke and to create new opportunities to meet people. However, this process is done largely at random, and only considers some factors such as lifestyle preferences, sleeping schedules, and medical conditions.

Thus, there is an additional layer to this matching situation in regards to social networks and social ties. The random roommate process is the university’s attempt at an ideal pairing, based on loose questionnaires. However, such pairings do not always work out. As the article notes, college roommates can have a significant impact on an individual’s lives, and sometimes in very negative ways. For example, people who were matched with a roommate who frequently dieted, often had an eating disorder in their 30s. Consequently, these ties you build with people may somehow affect you in subtle ways over time. Furthermore, especially in Duke’s case, there is a concern that the randomization may force minorities into uncomfortable situations, and there may be an unwanted clash in social networks. You also may simply dislike your roommates for various other reasons, and ultimately just form a few weak ties by the end of the school year. Overall, this is an interesting case to think about and to consider how a matching system like roommates and dorms, governed by the university, can impact an individual.


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September 2018