November 8, 2010

Roomie Troubles Part Deux

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Dear Everyday Ethicist,

I’m a junior and my roommate is going abroad next semester. Since we live in Collegetown, our rent is ridiculously high, so he has been scrambling to find someone to sublet the apartment. This weekend, he told us he found a subletter and that they already signed a contract. I have no idea who the person is, and my roommate did not consult me at all during the entire time he was looking for someone. Since I will be the one who has to live with this stranger next semester, am I right to be angry that I didn’t have a say in choosing the subletter? — Fearful of Strangers

Dear Fearful,

Although your roommate certainly erred in signing a lease without your approval, you would be equally amiss if you immediately started a dispute. Before getting angry, you might consider meeting the prospective tenant. (And I mean in person, not online.) If he/she makes you uncomfortable, you have every right to request that your roommate seek a replacement, with the additional stipulation that your approval must be obtained prior to signing a lease. But if the two of you hit it off, you can thank your roommate while reminding him that in the future, you would like to be consulted on these issues.

Dear Everyday Ethicist,

I am planning to live with a group of seven or eight girls in Collegetown next year. However, there has been some controversy in our group because one of the other girls wants to include her friend whom most of us really dislike. Not only is she annoying, she also has very specific desires that are impossible to meet. Every time we look at a place, she dismisses it for some arbitrary reason. The girl who wants to include her is one of my close friends, and I really want to live with her, but every time one of us suggests not living with the other girl, our friend claims that it would be unethical to exclude her since she now counts on living with us. However, none of us recalls ever being asked if the girl could live with us in the first place. What should I do? — Homeless

Dear Homeless,

If most of your group feels uncomfortable around this girl, there’s no reason why you should live with her, especially if she’s making it so difficult to find a place. However, your friend is also correct that it would be unethical to simply ditch her. Even if you didn’t intend to include her, allowing her to attend housing tours while the rest of you inwardly seethed, instead of addressing the issue, provided her with the impression that she belongs to your group.

Rather than telling her directly that she can’t live with you, give her the power to say no. Narrow it down to a few apartments, and tell the girl that this is the best you can do. If she continues to veto them, then let her know that it seems like your group is less important to her than proximity to Starbucks, or whatever her concern may be. She can stay true to her principles, and the rest of you can be rid of a potentially troublesome roommate.

However, keep in mind that your friend may choose to live with this girl, so excluding her may mean leaving both of them out. Your group may want to decide which is more important — living with your friend, or not living with this girl. As the saying goes, you can’t have everything.

Elisabeth Rosen is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be consulted at ethicist@cornellsun.com or erosen@cornellsun.com for all ethical dilemmas, sticky situations, faux pas’ and pickles. The Everyday Ethicist appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.

Original Author: Elisabeth Rosen