June 23, 2024

New commuter lounge provides a safe space for underrepresented students

What was once the computer lab in Schaaf Hall is becoming a new commuter lounge. The project, which is funded by Student Government and ResLife, aims to support the large number of students who do not live on campus.

The university has 850 commuter students, all of which do not have the same access to resources as those who live on campus. When waiting for hours in-between classes, and not having a room in a residence hall to return to, in addition to typically not having a meal plan, those students can feel like they have no safe space to belong in. 

“The current places offered for commuters are… much to be desired,” said Brenden O’Brien, a sophomore commuter student. “The only one I know of is in Lohman, which is currently closed. So right now there isn’t any place for commuters to hang. Plus, I feel like that one was very out of the way anyway.”

The new commuter lounge would offer a place of both respite and community for those who commute to campus. While the lounge is not yet furnished, it will include amenities such as a TV, a coffee maker and games. This will allow commuter students a place to unwind and interact in a capacity that has not been available since the closure of Lohman, and even prior. 

Schaaf Hall is the site of the new commuter lounge on campus.

“It would be wonderful to have the opportunity to meet other commuters of my standing to be able to bond over campus life and the sort of unique perspective that being a commuter student brings to our campus,” said Devon Piskac, a fifth-year commuter student. “I think that’s very important because our commuter students don’t have very many accessible places to go on campus, especially because the comforts of home, such as using a microwave or being able to sit into a common space, aren’t as accessible.”

While the commuter lounge centers a space for students to find sanctuary on campus, issues with commuter engagement go far beyond a physical lounge. Commuters have been traditionally outside the know when it comes to participating in student organizations, with many events occurring in the evening or later, when commuters have typically gone home.

 In addition, following the effects of COVID-19 on campus engagement, commuters have been affected even more, resulting in a severe disconnect between commuter students and those who live on campus.

“The label of “Commuter” has a weight to it that I don’t like,” said O’Brien. “It’s like yes, I’m part of Capital and CapFam, but not as much as the residents.”

In conjunction with the construction of the new lounge, ResLife is also working to improve overall commuter student experience on campus through events designed to guide commuter students to appropriate resources, as well as increase awareness of on-campus activities. 

“Capital preaches about student involvement and leadership,” said Kevin Crane, one of the university’s community coordinators. “So part of that is promoting students to try to get involved and say, ‘Hey, maybe you are here for a couple hours. But it doesn’t mean you can’t stay a little bit longer.’ ”

Student Government, which recently passed a bill for the majority of the lounge’s furniture and amenities, also aims to remove the disconnect between commuters and residential students.

“Student Government hopes that this new space will demonstrate that commuters are a valued part of this community,” said Beverly Kinateder, president of Student Government. “We represent them and want to improve their experience here.”

The new commuter lounge is expected to open within the next few weeks.


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