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I'm an undergraduate student that was offered a role researching for a grant. I was able to get authorship status on a paper and will be attending a conference for it later this year. The professor I am working for connected me with another student at a different university in order to share a hotel room. We will both be staying for the entire week and are responsible for booking our own reservations. Unfortunately, the centre the conference is located at is booked, with only a single-bed room available that we would be required to vacate on Wednesday then move back in.

This student was fine with booking the room and asked me if I was okay with it, but after I realized that it is a very small, dorm-like room with a small bed and no futon I counter-offered a reasonably-priced room at another hotel a half-mile away with two beds that we would not need to move out of midweek. I thought this would be well-received, however the student pushed back saying that the other room had a better price (of course, as it was intended for one person or a couple) and we would have better involvement with the conference (doubtful, as long as we show up on time).

Besides already being an incredibly poor sleeper, I'm otherwise just uncomfortable sharing a small bed with another student I don't know, and the room is small enough that I can't confidently say a hotel cot would fit. However, I also don't feel comfortable making this a bigger conflict than necessary, and I don't want to upset my professor by costing our grant more money than necessary by booking my own room at twice the cost. On the other hand, I do feel I have the right to request sleeping accommodations that I am comfortable with. How can I handle this appropriately without offending anyone?

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    Would a hotel even allow two people to share a single room? I think you are well within your rights to ask for a bit more money to get a double room. – astronat Jul 12 '18 at 19:12
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    I think this question is better suited for interpersonal.stackexchange.com – problemofficer Jul 12 '18 at 19:15
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    @atronat the OP said it's a single bed designed for a couple, so it's not a single person. It's often possible to request a cot, which I think may be the easiest solution, and whoever gets the cot pays a smaller share since it's likely more uncomfortable, but I agree with problemofficer that it's better suited for IPS – user0721090601 Jul 12 '18 at 19:19
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    And IPS referred me to Academia on the chance that someone here has had a shared experience. – Jared Jul 12 '18 at 19:19
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    @Karl that seems extremely premature. There's nothing in the OP that even indicates the professor is aware of the conflict. – Stella Biderman Jul 13 '18 at 0:11
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You don't mention what country you're in and perhaps it might matter, that what's acceptable in one country might not be in another. Here in the US, it's not uncommon to be asked to share a room at a conference or in other professional situations with another attendee of the same sex. But it would never be considered appropriate to ask anyone to share a bed. Never. Period. It would only happen if a supervisor, e.g., your department chair was unaware it was happening.

So, if you're here in the US, I would be firm. Send an email to your professor, pointing out that sharing a room is okay, but sharing a bed is not and insist on your solution, the room with two beds at the other hotel. I would not feel guilty even for one second about the extra cost. You're entitled to your own bed. If your professor insists you share a bed, I would report this to your department chair and request help.

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    Agree. In fact, OP probably doesn't even need to explain that sharing a bed is not okay, it's enough to just say "the room we were looking at only has one bed, so looks like sharing it won't work. I proposed this other, double room half a mile away, but the other student didn't go for that. What do you think?" – cag51 Jul 13 '18 at 2:18
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    @Kimball That's not what he said. If US -> not OK does not imply If Not US -> OK. And as long as one does not know cultures of all countries around the globe, I strongly support using the qualifier. – FooBar Jul 13 '18 at 8:01
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    @Kimball My qualifier was as innocuous as yours, "guessing" I'm a she. From my picture and name, you shouldn't have to guess. I tend to add them defensively here on this site because anytime I don't, I can pretty much count on someone jumping on me for forgetting that the US is not the only country in the world. In this particular case, I'm not aware of any differences, but it seemed possible that in extremely poor countries, perhaps one might be asked to share a bed. And perhaps there are very wealthy countries where it'd be unthinkable to be asked to share a room. – Nicole Hamilton Jul 13 '18 at 10:27
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    Actually, I don't agree that "sharing a room is ok" if the OP finds it uncomfortable. This is an intensely personal situation and no one should object if the person wants to maintain privacy for any reason or no reason at all. – Buffy Jul 13 '18 at 10:27
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    @Kimball the answerer never implied that it was different in different countries, she pointed out that the US is the only region she's familiar enough with to give an answer and that she's aware that social norms vary from place to place. She's saying she doesn't know how it works in other places, not that she knows it's different. – Alexandre Aubrey Jul 13 '18 at 13:44
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The professor I am working for connected me with another student at a different university in order to share a hotel room.

I think this is the key point. The professor, who is your supervisor and is in charge of the grant funds, is sending you to the conference, and it is their responsibility to ensure you have safe, reasonable accommodations during the trip. Their proposed solution involving shared accommodations with the student they connected you with might have seemed reasonable when they suggested it, but it is becoming clear that it isn’t. Certainly asking that you share a hotel bed or other uncomfortably close quarters with a complete stranger is way outside the norm in almost all areas of academia (the only exceptions I can think of being a few disciplines like archaeology, paleontology and such where hardy researchers sometimes go on field studies in very spartan environments), and not something you should be expected to accept as a condition for attending a conference.

The conclusion is simple. You should email the professor, explain that you have not been able to find an acceptable arrangement to share accommodations with the other student, and ask him to help you find an alternative solution involving an acceptable level of comfort and privacy. Such a request, if phrased politely, would be completely reasonable and professional, and I’m sure any half-decent professor would not be fazed by it or have any trouble addressing the problem.

Good luck, and have fun at the conference.

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    This, except for the part of asking the supervisor to help you find an alternative solution. Email him the details of a single room you found online (rather cheap, for you alone) and ask if that would be okay or ask if he knows other students who are interested in finding a shared room. – Sabine Jul 13 '18 at 12:58
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    @Sabine agreed, thanks, it’s indeed a good idea to proactively suggest an alternative solution. – Dan Romik Jul 13 '18 at 13:02
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You may just need to come to the conclusion that no negotiation is possible and make your own arrangements. No one should be offended by someone who wants to preserve their personal space and privacy.

I doubt that your professor, who is the only one, other than yourself who matters much here, would think less of you if you don't yield to a situation you find somewhere between uncomfortable and untenable.

There is the financial issue of course, but your privacy is likely worth the cost and you will have a much better experience at the conference if you are comfortable personally. While cost isn't a factor for me anymore I often tell family (cousins, kids, etc) I'd rather get a hotel than use their guest room. Privacy, comfort, personal space.

That said, you might take a bit of time at the conference to see if the other student is someone you might want to be friends and colleagues with generally, but that is a question for the future.


Due to a comment, perhaps I should be more clear and explicit. This is not something you should accept if you have any reservations. You are perfectly correct to reject it.

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I do not know this person, but I would simply say it honestly. It's perfectly professional. Say something like "I understand that the room is a bit more expensive, but I would much rather find a room that accommodates two people and does not force us to share a bed. This room is the best I could find, but if you can find a similar one for a better price, send me a link."

This is a perfectly normal and reasonable thing to want, it places no obligation on you to pay a greater share, and it should not offend any person who is there in a professional capacity.

  • This is a good suggestion, but I think being even more firm in saying that you don't want to share a bed would be a good idea. Just say, "I am not willing to share a bed" in there somewhere. – Apologize and reinstate Monica Jul 13 '18 at 19:42
  • @sgroves Can do that too, although it shouldn't be necessary. My guess is that most people would get the point from this. It takes quite an unpleasant person to insist on sharing a bed in this situation. – Misha R Jul 13 '18 at 23:34
  • "Would much rather" doesn't get the point across; it makes it sound like you're okay with either, but prefer one option to the other. Need to be clear that sharing a bed is not an option. – R.. Jul 14 '18 at 22:38
  • @R.. As i said, I think it does get the point across - but, as I also said, being more firm is probably fine. Which one you would rather use may depend on what kind of person you believe you are dealing with. – Misha R Jul 14 '18 at 22:52

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