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To Snitch or Not To Snitch?

Tuesday, Sep. 3, 2013

The best student comment on "To Snitch or Not To Snitch?" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, September 15th, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates.

**DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**
Joseph is a collegiate athlete. He used to play three sports in high school: football, basketball, and track. When he came to college, Joseph decided to row crew in order to stay in peak athletic shape. He had never rowed crew before in his life. While many would think that it is a difficult transition for him “on the field,” or in the boat in this case, he is finding it most difficult to transition to life in a college dorm.
Joseph’s crew schedule is such that he has to wake up earlier than the average college student. He often has to be at practice at 6 am. In order to stay alert and perform to the best of his ability, Joseph sleeps early and doesn’t drink alcohol while crew is in season. While he doesn’t have a problem with students drinking alcohol and being drunk in the dorms, he gets annoyed when they are loud and keep him awake at night.
Joseph’s roommate, Greg, doesn’t take part in collegiate athletics. He enjoys staying up late, drinking alcohol socially, and going to parties. As a result, Greg often leaves the room a mess with the smell of alcohol lingering. Greg also tends to wander into the room at late hours and wake Joseph up. Joseph has talked with Greg about trying to stay clean and keeping it down, especially on Friday nights because crew regattas are early on Saturday mornings.
One Friday night, Greg and a few of the other dorm residents are drinking and being loud in the common areas. Joseph can hear them as he tries to sleep to prepare for the regatta in the morning. He sends Greg a text asking him to keep it down, but thirty minutes later they seem to be making even more noise. Joseph calls campus safety and files a noise complaint. As a result, the dorm quiets down but Greg and his friends are caught drinking in the common area and receive fines and community service.
Should Joseph have reported the incident to campus safety? Is it wrong for Joseph to request his dorm mates respect that he has to wake up early to row crew? Does Greg have a right to be upset at his roommate? Do you find that college students are inconsiderate of their surroundings on campus? Do students often treat dorms as a party scene as opposed to a home? 
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Photo by Jason Wun available under a Creative Commons license.

Comments Comments

Jake said on Sep 4, 2013
This ended up being pretty clear cut--moreso than perhaps any other Big Qs I've read. Joe had the courtesy to be an adult and talk with his roommate about his behavior. When Greg made a further faux pas when Joe absolutely needed sleep to perform at his best (and when Greg could be reasonable and spend time with his friends elsewhere), Joe again attempted to handle it the right way and sent a text to Greg. It would be unreasonable at this point for Joe to need to leave his bed and enter an uncomfortable social scene in order to perhaps fruitlessly make a further attempt to get Greg to tone it down. Joe didn't get Greg cited by police or suspended by the school, but did get him in enough trouble to (one would hope) entice him avoid such a transgression in the future, especially considering a talking-to wasn't good enough the first time. The Three Cs at our university are Competence, Conscience, and Compassion. Greg didn't have a focus on any of these three when he repeatedly ignored his friend's requests for compassion; his lack of conscience in considering Joe's need to perform at his highest level and his incompetence in understanding actions have consequences even after a timely warning sure makes me hope he's not attending SCU! If Greg is upset, it should be because of his failures, not because a reasonable guy was pushed to his limits. As for my own experiences, luckily, living in Sanfilippo for two years, I encountered nothing but reasonable room and floormates. I think many realize this: a main understanding from growing up and attending college should be that life is a two-way, yet sometimes narrow, street where we're expected to pull over to the side every once in a while and let somebody else go. Joe isn't a prude or the rain on anyone's parade--recall it's implied he parties in the off-season--but instead he is responsible enough to listen to his body and do his best for his team. I'm sure when the season's over, Joe would be right there with Greg in the common area, socializing up a storm. And if Greg ended up with a huge midterm one morning, assuming his roommate had gotten his sleep when he needed it most, Joe would probably have no problem moving his shenanigans off-campus the evening prior. As it often does, following the Golden Rule plays an important part in keeping this relationship happy and healthy. Thank you for the thought-provoking blog and your time! -Jake - Like - 1 person likes this.
Josh said on Sep 15, 2013
I thought that regarding this ethical dilemma, Joseph should not have reported his roommate to campus security. When looking at the bigger picture, it isnt beneficial to anyone that he took his issue to a higher power. Something small like this is perfectly capable of being resolved in one-on one roommate to roommate conversation. If Joseph was so annoyed at the noise coming from the common room, he could have personally gone to the common room and requested the noise be decreased face to face. While I agree that Joseph is being treated unfairly and that he deserves to get his rest and live in an environment thats comfortable for him, but the way that it was handled was poor. A more immediate solution would have been wearing headphones to bed and maybe warning the roommate about future consequences that would occur if he didnt comply with his requests. - Like
Daekwon said on Jan 28, 2014
Personally I don't think Joseph needed to go as far as reporting the issue to campus safety. This is a dilemma that could be handled between the two roommates alone instead of causing not only Greg to be fined but also Greg's friends who played a very little part in the situation. Joseph could have easily gotten out of bed and face-to-face ask everyone to quiet down informing everyone involved that he was trying to sleep not just Greg with a text message. Joseph also could have requested a new roommate once he realised that this would be a reoccurring problem. I also don't think Joseph has solved the situation at all if anything he has made it worse because Greg will now resent Joseph and their relationship will become even more unpleasant. - Like
Florencia Aleman said on Jan 28, 2014
Looking at one of the five sources of ethical standards, we realize that as person we have rights. Joseph certainly attempted to keep the authorities out of the situation by contacting Greg politely, and yet Greg made the wrong ethical decision and neglected the fact that his party was bothering his roommate Joseph, more noise was then made. Joseph's intentions were not to get students arrested for underage drinking, he merely thought of his own need to be in a safe and quiet environment. He might not have taken a Utilitarian approach as he did not decrease the harm of the outcome, but again he has his own rights to dislike the noise and disrespect. Joseph was right to call the police in my personal opinion. - Like
Margo said on Jan 29, 2014
The ethical dilemma can be boiled down to which person's rights are more important. Both roommates are acting out of their own free will to do as they please, so when they come into conflict, who's at fault and how do you solve it? The primary way of solving their problems would be to communicate and establish a balance of rights. For example perhaps 3 nights of the week Joseph respects Greg's desire to party, while the other 4 nights of the week Greg respects Joseph's desire to get to bed at a reasonable hour. I am not implying that this is the solution, but it is a solution. In this situation it seems as though Joseph did communicate his anxieties to Greg and tried to find a solution to them, but Greg rejected these settlements. And on the night in question Joseph did communicate again by texting Greg. However I think that this method of communication is inadequate considering Greg IS partying. How can you be sure he's even received the text and read it? Joseph should have went down in person to tell them to quiet down. Calling campus security wasn't completely necessary but it isn't an objectionable choice because he had a right to report a disturbance which was threatening his physical health by taking away from his sleep. The party-goers did not consider any other person and the results of their actions, so this solution brought about attention to their habits and a chance to change their attitude. Though there might be roomate troubles in the future, Greg shouldn't be surprised or harboring any resentment because he broke the social contract which, though unwritten, stipulates mutual respect. Therefore there was no need for Joseph to maintain his end of the bargain by respecting Greg's disruptive choices. - Like - 1 person likes this.
YONGHAO ZHOU said on Jan 30, 2014
Both roommates have the rights to do things that they wanted to do and either way they do it will hurt the others? feeling. Therefore, it is the problem of whose thing is more important or appropriate to do. They have certainly tried to reach an agreement, however it did not work out because it was hurting Greg?s benefits. Hence it would be better if they could reach balance for their agreements, perhaps they can join each other?s activity for once and both find what the other person is interested in hence thinking in the others? perspective. The other night Joseph indeed did communicate again by texting Greg. However, as Greg is partying, would texting actually reach Greg? Joseph should have went down in person to tell them to quiet down. Calling the school officials wasn't necessary but certainly he had a right to report a what he was suffering as Greg was threatening his physical health by taking away from his sleep. Greg and his friends certainly had big faults because they did not consider the others and the results of their loudness of partying. There might be roommate troubles in the future, as both of them would be unhappy with each other. However, they could also feel guilty for each other as they were both causing troubles mutually. The best and the easiest thing they could do would be switching roommates as their relation is going to a struggling point. - Like
Hongyi Zhou said on Jan 30, 2014
It seems like this is a very common situation that would happen to roommates. The question is very obvious for Joseph, was it ethical to report his roommate? From the perspective of egoism, Joseph definitely did the right things since he considered what was good for himself. However, from the perspective of liberalism, Joseph did the wrong thing because he limited his roommate's individual freedom. Moreover, consequentially speaking, reporting his roommate would lead to both positive and negative consequences. On the positive side, he will have some good rest for his regattas ; and on the negative side, even his roommate does not know Joseph reported him, Joseph will still feel guilty since his action has directly led to severe consequences for his roommate. In my own opinion, reporting does not seem to be necessary for such situations, perhaps better negotiation would lead to better results. - Like
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