Editor’s Note: Veronica Wernicke is a freshman at UNCW majoring in Communication Studies and is the assistant opinion editor for The Seahawk. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Veronica Wernicke may be found on Twitter @itsveronica98. All suggestions and inquiries may be sent via email to [email protected]
I can’t even imagine doing the things Brianna Brochu — a former Caucasian freshman at University of Hartford — did to her roommate Chennel Rowe to get rid of her. Let alone imagine having them done to me. For those unaware of the situation, Brochu committed horrible acts like licking her roommate’s food utensils, spitting in her things, rubbing used tampons on her backpack, among a list of other horrific acts, according to New York Daily News. Brochu did all this in hopes of getting rid of her roommate, who just so happened to be African American. According to the same New York Daily News article, Brochu later made an Instagram post after her roommate had chosen to move out, where she bragged about her acts and referred to her roommate at “Jamaican Barbie.”
The incident took place for over a month and half, according to Brochu’s Instagram post, but Brochu wasn’t arrested until November 28 and was expelled from the University of Hartford that following Wednesday, according to New York Daily News. Rowe was initially unaware of the acts being committed, until others told her about the Instagram post. Later, Rowe would take to Facebook live to describe her experience. According to Allure, when Rowe went to the university with complaints she was initially asked to sign a “no contact agreement” between her and her ex-roommate. After Rowe’s video had been viewed over half a million times, according to Allure, then the university expelled Brochu.
What I want to know is why it took so long to expel Brochu, and why the university thought a “no contact agreement” was the appropriate response? I sure hope that if anything remotely similar happened at UNCW that expulsion would be the first step. This situation, as horrific as it is, will serve as an important example for other universities in the future and how they handle similar situations. The university should have gotten involved way earlier, and I’m curious to know if anyone who saw the post thought to share it with the university. Despite a statement on the university’s website made by the university’s President Gregory S. Woodward stating “Let me also be clear that I am confident the university has taken all steps to pursue this matter seriously, and will continue to do so.”
Sorry, President Woodward, but I don’t think you did. If you had, this situation would have been dealt with a lot sooner. When Rowe chose to move out, I would think the school would have been a lot more curious as to why she wanted to move out. Especially as freshman, the school should have made more of an effort to check in on the students and their living situations. Note since I am not a student at the University of Hartford, I’m not aware of what, if any, efforts were made like the one aforementioned.
I know at least in my UNI 101 class that my professor tries to check in every couple of weeks with my class to see how our roommate situations are going. So, maybe if the university had made similar efforts, this disgusting situation could have either never happened or at least stopped a lot sooner before more harm was caused to Rowe.
Drawing back to UNCW, like I mentioned earlier, I think our university can use this example as a learning experience on how to better handle similar situations. I have heard stories about problems with roommates, but most students that I know at UNCW have either gone to the said problematic roommate or tried to reach out to someone at the school to cease it. I hope that this situation will prompt UNCW to ensure even safer measures for students on campus, in addition to the already safe environment they provide. UNCW could better protect its students from situations like this by putting forth more of an effort to check in with living situations on campus.
Yes, we are college students and adults, but we are also immature and sometimes oblivious. So, a check in system would greatly benefit student’s safety and help address any roommate issues in a timelier manner. These check-ins could simply be an in-person meeting between roommates and either a counselor, RA or residence hall coordinator where any issues or concerns could be addressed, and overall serve as a healthy check in to see how the roommates are getting along.
UNCW and other universities alike can also make more of an effort when it comes to assigning roommates. As it currently stands, for UNCW at least, you can either choose random or search forever on Facebook group pages for a potential roommate. When you go random, you simply fill out a 10-question survey with questions about how you feel about drinking, smoking and other issues.
Now for me, 10 questions aren’t enough to comfortably and accurately place me with someone who I’m going to live with for the next year. There are so many ways where you could agree or disagree on a question, but that doesn’t mean you are the right fit to room together, because that questionnaire doesn’t address enough. Granted, I was lucky this year and I have an awesome roommate who I get along with very nicely, but others like Rowe aren’t so lucky. If UNCW changed this policy of randomly assigning roommates to better suit people and their fitting roommates, then that would better protect students from uncomfortable or horrible situations.
Due to this inefficient method of roommate placement, there are many students who experience on-campus roommate problems. Bad roommate experiences that UNCW students have gone through include incredibly messy roommates, roommates that burst in loud and drunk in the middle of the night, roommates that eat all of their other roommate’s food without asking, roommates who steal and I even know someone who’s roommate won’t even talk to them. Now if UNCW fixed their approach to assigning roommates, then many of these situations could be avoided.
My thoughts go out to Rowe, and despite this being such an awful situation, I hope this calls on concern for universities’ safety. I hope universities can learn from this, because at the end of the day, we are all humans, and we should all have the right to be and feel safe on our university campuses.