I get to the see the city every morning.
The skyscrapers always seem to be shining – whether it’s 6:30 in the morning or 9:30 at night. I like to think that it’s a nice addition to an otherwise mundane 40-minute train ride to school.
Beside the view, my commute does not have many benefits, especially when it comes to participating in organizations. Some students’ commute time makes them less inclined to join activities on Main Campus.
When I’m at a club meeting or fencing practice, other students give me a perplexed “What?” face when they find out that I commute – particularly when meetings are later at night.
These realizations mostly resonated with me last semester, in April, when I covered the low voter turnout in the student elections.
Temple Student Government representatives said at the time the crux of the low turnout was attributed to a miniscule number of students being engaged in campus life, and I remember thinking that, for commuters, this lack of involvement is not an isolated incident.
After all, many of those students who did not engage in campus life were undergraduate commuters, who have gone from constituting a large segment of the university’s population to about the same number as undergraduate residents.
With the recent openings of Morgan Hall and The View at Montgomery, the university seems to be heading toward a resident-driven campus – which seems quite antithetical to the school’s raison d’être, or mission statement.
In its inception, Temple catered to students who attended night classes and were commuters. The university’s founder, Russell Conwell, first taught students who could only attend classes at night, and soon after, this method prospered.
But today, a great deal of students live on or around Main Campus – about 50 percent, according to the university’s 2013 sustainability report The university is drawing more students from around the country and the world.
With this shift in the student body’s demographic, many commuters feel left out of student affairs.
A glaring example is from the university’s Welcome Week and Temple Fest, where students descend upon Liacouras Walk in an effort to sign up for email lists for organizations.
“Of course it’ll work!” various representatives say, almost ensuring that commuters can seamlessly participate in activities and contribute to campus life.
For many students, though, it’s not always that easy.
Students can feel discouraged from joining campus organizations and participate in the campus lifestyle that once provided an appropriate environment for commuters and residents alike.
“There are days when I am done all my classes around [noon], so then I find myself staying on campus for five hours just so I can attend a meeting,” said Diana Martirosyan, a sophomore biology major.
Martirosyan said living 35 minutes away from Main Campus makes it inconvenient to attend meetings during evenings or weekends.
“I think it would be much easier to be involved if I lived on campus, but commuting was mostly a financial decision for me,” she said.
In many students’ cases, the decision to commute is primarily due to financial reasons, and that should not be a reason for exclusion from organization or activities.
Some students think despite the current circumstances, there are viable solutions to more active commuter participation on campus – and it starts with connecting the two rather separated groups.
Omar Harris, a sophomore who studies in the College of Science and Technology, said having events welcome to all students would help to achieve this.
“Planning more events to unite commuters and students in dorms would be a good first step,” he said.
Another way the university could remedy the resident-commuter disconnect would be to provide a locker room located in a fairly central point of Main Campus, where students could drop off their belongings.
Currently, students can rent coin-operated lockers in the Student Center daily. However, students must clear all items in the lockers by the end of the day, an inconvenience for commuters who regularly need the space.
The IBC offers lockers for the entire semester, but again, this system doesn’t seem to be geared toward commuters – the lockers are located in a gym locker room, so it seems their intention is for athletes.
With a quick Google search, various college websites appear that have some sort of office or department for commuting, and Temple is not one of them. It’s odd that, even with around half of students commuting, there is no resource center to cater to this segment of the university.
Additionally, Temple could facilitate the creation of spaces where commuters can spend some time in order to be able to participate in activities later on in the day. Some colleges, like Rowan University, even have commuter-specific meal plans that can be used for one meal daily.
It seems that the university’s focus is changing, and residential life is at the forefront. But the university should do its best to ensure that commuters play a role in this transition.
Romsin McQuade can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org