Q: I am a freshman at a State University. When I moved into my dorm room I realized that I had never thought to bring a mezuzah. I would feel funny living in a room without one, but I would also feel funny putting one up since the room belongs to the university. (My non-Jewish roommate said he wouldn’t mind if I put it up,) What is the right thing to do?
A: Indeed, many authorities exempt dorm rooms from mezuzah. They reason that a student is not considered the “renter” of his particular room since he is paying only for accommodation in general. In fact, the university could move students from room to room if necessary. Thus, his use of the room is essentially no different than his use of the public rooms or the library. Moreover, even after thirty days, no one would suspect that the student has bought the room from the university!
According to some authorities the fact that you share this dwelling with a non-Jew is an additional factor to excuse you from affixing a mezuzah.
However, I would suggest that, with the university’s permission, you follow those authorities who do require a mezuzah in dormitory situations, and those who require one on residences shared with non-Jews. You are probably in a highly challenging environment at the university and need all the spiritual protection you can get! Also, if there are other Jewish students in your dorm, you will be encouraging them to assert their Jewish identity! No beracha is recited on this placement.
- Sources: Avnei Nezer Y.D. 380; Shevet HaLevi 2:156; Rema Y.D. 286:1; Agur B’Ohalecha 29:7; Chovas HaDar 2:2:6; Bedek HaBayis 286; Aruch HaShulchan 286:2