Senior Staff Writer
Roommate or suitmate conflicts are an expected, common part of the college housing experience.
However, when Jason Torres moved into Cougar Place in July 1996, he got more suitmate problems than he bargained for. Disputes over the upkeep of a shared bathroom escalated into an all-out battle of wills.
Torres' suitemate, Nicholas DiLucci, was living in Cougar Place when Torres moved in. Torres said that when he arrived, the bathroom was "really pretty bad off ... so I cleaned it." Torres said he cleaned the restroom six to seven times over the next few weeks.
Torres, a post-bac engineering student, described the bathroom as "nasty, filthy and deplorable. Imagine if you did not clean it for an entire month. (There would be) hair bits, scum in there. If you leave it ... the scum changes color and the chrome is no longer even recognizably metallic."
Another conflict came about, Torres said, when a bathroom lightbulb burned out and Torres asked DiLucci to take care of it. "He had a fit when the lightbulb would not work."
Torres said that when DiLucci attempted to replace the lightbulb, he became very agitated. Torres said DiLucci's voice was "very trembling, agitated, nervous, concerned, frustrated."
Torres said things deteriorated between himself and DiLucci from there and described the nighttime screaming, yelling and "night terrors" of DiLucci. At one point, Torres added, DiLucci pounded on the door leading from Torres' room to the bathroom until the lock dislodged.
Soon after, Torres said, he arranged a meeting between himself, DiLucci and University of Houston housing officials. "I had a meeting with (Area Coordinator) Terry Bridges and (an assistant area coordinator) Zandy Baker. I go over there, and Nicholas is real quiet throughout the whole meeting. Everything worked out, and the bathroom was to be cleaned once a month."
The bathroom was only cleaned once, according to Torres.
Torres added that he talked with Bridges and Baker in private, "because I did not want to hurt Nicholas' feelings. I gave them the full monty on this. (Bridges') eyes got big when I told him about the pounding on the door."
Still, Torres said, the problems did not stop there, describing an incident in which DiLucci "runs out (of his room). I see him come back in in his underwear. I went to the front desk and called them."
However, Torres said, the desk clerk "did not want to go in to talk to Nicholas unless he had the police behind him."
Torres said, "Every time I tell people about Nicholas, they know who he is. There's always a smirk on their face, and, invariably, they say that's the way it's been and that there are other people like that in the complex."
Torres said that because of the ordeal with DiLucci and the apparent inability of administrators to do anything about it, he has "lost faith in housing."
Since that episode, Torres said the situation has been "business as usual."
Torres said he contacted the Dean of Students and Director of Residential Life and Housing, Andy Blank. Torres said although Blank has been cooperative, it seems as if Blank is trying to "stalemate me." Torres also added that "it really disturbs me ... (that) Andy asks me if I'm taping conversations I'm having with him. He's very worried that I'm taping the conversations I'm having with him."
Blank said that confidentiality policies prevent him from discussing any incidents between Torres and DiLucci. "I'm really not at liberty to discuss any particular case," he said.
Blank said that Torres has been offered another room. Yet Torres does not feel he should be the one who has to move. "This is my home. I live here. I know lots of people can go stay with their parents. It is wrong to use the childhood argument that (DiLucci) was there first.
"If they move me, they fix the situation, not the problem, which is unfair. You have a high flow of students through that room because one student is breaking every rule he can."
Torres said, "The university is keeping business as usual as its major priority rather than solving the problem."
Torres said, "We all expect a certain amount of things to happen when you go to a university because it's big. You also expect that if you live in Residential Life and Housing that there is a certain amount of modifications you have to make in your life. You have to get along with (a roommate or suitemate)."
Torres added, "Everybody has stress in their life, but this just adds to it. I'm more of a jittery person than I used to be. My fuse is shorter in certain situations."
Torres also said he finds himself taking more precautions for personal safety than he did before. "I do check that door (leading to the joint bathroom) three to four times before I go to bed and am very cautious."