New common hour will affect commuter students’ involvement in campus activities

As a commuter student, I understand the difficulty of becoming an active member of campus life. While resident students can roll out of bed five minutes before class, I have to leave an hour before class starts to ensure that I get to campus on time, since the buses I take rarely run on schedule.

The new schedule change, which will be implemented for the fall 2010 semester, may make it more difficult for commuters, who still make up roughly 80 percent of the population at St. John’s, to get involved on campus.

Starting in the fall, Wednesday will be the designated Common Hour day, when student organizations will hold their meetings.

Since Wednesday will also have three-hour block classes, many students are going to have off from class on this day.

With the cost of public transportation recently going up to $2.25 a ride, buying MetroCards definitely adds up fast – I typically spend at least $20 a week on transportation alone. And on the many nights I’ve worked on the Torch until the early hours of the morning, I’ve had to take cabs home. The fact that transportation to and from St. John’s can be expensive is one of the main reasons why many commuters are
reluctant to get involved.

Will commuters, who have to shell out their own money to get to campus, come in on a day when they don’t have class, just to go to an organization’s meeting or
attend an event? Probably not.

There are the commuters who are dedicated to organizations, who will remain dedicated even if the new schedule makes it more difficult. But for the majority, this new schedule may make them feel less inclined to get involved in anything on campus.

Since the schedule is definitely being implemented next semester, the University now needs to take steps to ensure that commuter students are able to stay actively involved, and not feel left out of campus life. St. John’s now needs to ensure that any improvements it has made in the area of student engagement over the last year does not suffer.

At the Academic Forum last week, University administrators said students would have to get “creative” when it comes to holding organization meetings and how they plan their schedules next year. Just like students will have to be creative when it comes to planning their schedules, the University will need to find creative ways to keep commuter students engaged.

Every semester, the University holds a commuter appreciation week, with events geared toward the students that don’t live on campus, and last week was actually Commuter Pride Week on campus. These events have been poorly promoted, with minimal advertising and aren’t exactly
the most exciting to attend.

Furthermore, any student, regardless of whether they are a commuter or resident, can attend these events, which defeats the purpose. At many of these events, students receive free breakfast or free T-shirts – but for commuters, wouldn’t something more practical like a free MetroCard be
more meaningful?

If St. John’s routinely offered students a $4.50 MetroCard, that would be enough to get to and from campus on Wednesday, the day when organizations meet. By enticing commuters with MetroCards, more may be willing to come to campus on their day off.

I appreciate the efforts of the students and administrators who are involved in the Campus Commuter Connection, a relatively new organization that holds events where commuter students can share their concerns and have them brought to administrators.

Hopefully, administrators will take what these commuters have to say seriously, and make decisions that will make their college
experience at St. John’s a positive one.

If St. John’s really appreciates its commuter students, it will do whatever it takes to keep this group actively involved on campus as the school transitions to a new schedule. For a school rooted in the commuter tradition, anything else would be unacceptable.