“You live in Staten Island? How long does it take you to get here? What route do you take? Why would you do that to yourself?” The answer to these questions are: yes, I do live in Staten Island; it takes me about two hours and fifteen minutes; I take a bus to the Staten Island Ferry, then I take the 4 train to Fordham Road, where I take the Bx12+ to Fordham Plaza; I’m still not sure. Although my responses to these questions are now automatic, the final question is still the most difficult to answer. I struggled with the decision to attend Fordham because I knew that dorming at school was not an option for me and that my commute would result in future struggles: getting to class on time, completing my schoolwork in a timely manner, and joining a club or team that would integrate me within the Fordham community.
Undergraduate commuting students, such as
myself, at Fordham College Rose Hill (FCRH) make up about 12% of the FCRH
student population. Fordham does have some programs to accommodate the
approximately 500 commuting students such as the Commuting Student Association
(CSA), which assings commuting freshmen with a Commuting Assistant (CA), and the
$7,000 MetroGrant awarded by the Commuter Student Services. While these
services provide commuting students with assistance intended to alleviate some
of their concerns, they fall short of ensuring that commuters feel a part of
the Fordham community, resulting in an alienation between on-campus and off
campus students. These programs could improve in order to allow commuting
students to feel more involved in the school community and to reduce the
differences between the commuters and the dormers.
The students that dorm have easier access to
on-campus events than the students that commute. Those who live in the Bronx
have the advantage of attending late evening performances, club meetings, or
guest lectures, and they have unlimited access to the library during its open
hours. While commuters have almost the same opportunities, for them, these
opportunities come at a cost. Their commutes home would most likely cut into
time usually allocated for completing their studies, spending time with their
families, or even working at their jobs. Despite the programs commuter students
are provided with, this unequal acess to campus events seems to cause a divide
between dormers and commuters.
One program for freshmen commuting students is the assignment of a Commuter Assistant (CA). CAs are upperclassmen that also commute to Fordham. Each commuting freshman is assigned a CA who is responsible for answering any campus-related question that their freshmen may have. According to the Commuter Assistant page on the Fordham University website, “The intent [for CAs] is for first-year commuters to become effectively integrated into Fordham and the campus as a whole by building community and participating in campus events.” While many CAs genuinely care for the well-being of their freshmen, there are still some that are slacking in their responsibilities. There are many freshmen that have not met with their CAs since first being introduced in August, while others do not even know who their CAs are. The freshmen that have not met with their CAs have no idea how to contact them and where to go for support. For example, I know the name of my commuter assistant and yet I have never met him or communicated to him by email. During the three-day freshman orientation in August, the students were separated into groups led by their Commuter Assistant in an effort to bond and exchange contact information. Since I was traveling at this time, I did not get the chance to participate. As a result, my CA did not reach out to me and I have not had any contact with him at all this school year. My story is among many for freshmen with similar situations. A possible solution is for the CAs to have oversight when it comes to communicating. An advisor should be overlooking the CAs’ communication with their freshmen. This oversight ensures the freshmen are being contacted and are being provided with helpful information.
Another program for commuters is the Commuting Students Association (CSA). CSA is a branch of FCRH’s three-branched student government intended to address the grievances of commuting students and create engaging events that all students can enjoy. Not many students are aware that the CSA exists, which results in students not knowing where to go when they have a concern. CSA communicates through OrgSync, a website that keeps students connected with the clubs and organizations they are involved with on campus. OrgSync sends emails on behalf of these clubs and organizations, but many of the emails go into spam folders. Not aware of this mistake, many students miss out on important information from the organization such as upcoming events held at commuter-friendly times. This oversight a disservice to both the students who miss out on these events and to the students that plan the events. This gap in communication can be closed if the CSA uses a different platform to communicate with their constituents rather than using a third party to deliver their messages. Emailing commuters directly would enable them to attend the events held at commuter-friendly times and feel more a part of the community.
In addition to these missing opportunities, commuting students are also discouraged from joining clubs and teams. Joining a group allows students, especially freshmen, to meet new friends with common interests and meet students from different years. However, many club meetings occur in the evening, at times that are inconvenient for commuting students. For example, the chess club meets weekly on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM. Attending late meetings, such as the chess club, puts burdens on the commuters because they would have to travel home late at night when it is more dangerous and the MTA bus and train schedules become more erratic. Similarly, many of the sports teams have early morning workouts in the gym, forcing students to wake up even earlier than they would have. Practices also often last until the evening which results in the same issues as with the late night club meetings. The resulting inability to join extracurriculars can alienate commuting students even further by causing them to miss opportunities to meet and interact with others who have the same interests as them, as well as preventing them from making connections that would be helpful in the future. I believe that an effective solution to this would be for all clubs to have at least one club meeting a month be held at a commuter-friendly time. Having monthly commuter-friendly club meetings is an effective way for the students to feel like a part of the Fordham community by serving as a catch-up for commuting students and allowing for the opportunity to interact and connect with other club members, dormers and commuters alike.
Another issue that some commuters face is the timing of their classes. Since students create their own schedules, it is theoretically possible for commuting students to create a schedule that will allow them to wake up and to go home at decent times. Most students know that this is almost never the case. Commuting students, like dorming students, don’t want to wake up extra early to attend the 8:00 AM lectures. The advantage that the dorming students have is that they have a short commute to class than the commuting students do. This extra time allows students that dorm to sleep right before class begins. And even then, some students are still late! This advantage is unfair to the commuting students because, if they’re not driving, they’re stuck using the MTA, which is notoriously unreliable, especially during the morning rush hour. What would usually take 30 minutes of travel time can be doubled or even tripled in early morning traffic. This long commute results in the students needing to wake up even earlier than normal to make it to class on time. I wake up at 6:00 AM every morning in order to make it to my 9:30 Composition II class, and, even then, I’m still late. Despite my extraordinary commute, the same struggle applies to other commuters that have to wake up much earlier than their dorming peers. This is why I propose to reserve 12% of seats in all classes beginning after 9:00 AM for commuters. This percentage is a reflection of the percentage of commuters at FCRH. If the commuting student fails to register in a timely manner, then the fault would be their own. This would ensure that commuting students have a greater chance at a seat in classes that begin later in the day.
Fordham University does provide their commuters with support to aid with their education, but these services can be improved. In my experience, the alienation I feel as a commuter prevents me from enjoying my time at Fordham. When commuters don’t feel like a part of the community, our motivation to participate inside and out of the classroom significantly decreases. With these proposed changes, future commuting students will get the chance to increase their participation in campus related activities and influence even more students to be a part of the Fordham community.
“Commuter Assistants.” Fordham University, 6 Mar. 2015, www.fordham.edu/info/23006/rose_hill_commuter_student_services/4538/commuter_assistants.
“Commuting Students Association.” Fordham University, www.fordham.edu/info/23008/commuting_students_association.