Photo: Franck V. via Unsplash
About 60% of students at West Chester University currently live off campus or commute to school. I currently am one of the hundreds of commuter students at West Chester. I started commuting this year and with just one month into the school year, I am already fed up.
I knew parking was going to be a difficulty; it always has been. But I do not think there has ever been a year where parking has been so awful. Due to the closure of the Lawrence parking lot, there are even less parking spots to contend with. Adding to this problem is the university’s decision to admit more students than we have a capacity for. To make matters worse, they have sold more parking permits than there are parking spots. Like many other commuter students, I have to arrive to campus hours before my first class of the day just to secure a parking spot and even then, at around eight in the morning, the lots are almost filled. Parking Services has always advertised the many parking lots available on campus, but in reality there are only a few lots available on north campus. The south campus lots in past years have been good backups if north campus was completely filled, but even south campus has been filling up lately. This situation is forcing many students to park illegally and rack up costly fines which just exacerbates the situation. The parking issue has left many students like me frustrated and without options.
And if parking was the only issue commuter students had to deal with, then it would be an easier pill to swallow but it is not. It is also very hard to stay connected to campus life and student involvement while commuting. It is a sort of catch 22: you should schedule classes early in the day to arrive on campus early for parking and not waste a ton of time; meanwhile all club meetings and extracurricular activities usually meet in the afternoon or at night which means you either have to stay on campus all day or go home and commute back to school. For students that live an hour or so away or have to work or intern somewhere, the latter is not an easy option. With such a large population of commuter students, I am surprised WCU does not offer more support. I look at the support colleges like Philadelphia University gives to their students and feel even more frustrated by West Chester. PhilaU offers exceptional initiatives specific to commuter students including pairing each student with a Commuter Leader. This leader helps the commuter student transition to commuting in college while still feeling connected to the university. They also have a Commuter Cash program to provide incentives for students to make the extra effort to get involved in campus life. The Commuter Cash is given based on a student’s involvement, grades, participation in the community and utilization of campus resources. The cash can be used to win SEPTA tokens, university gear and gift cards. In addition, PhilaU runs monthly commuter community meetings and a commuter connections learning community to allow students the opportunity to meet other commuters. These are just a few programs PhilaU offers that WCU should consider adopting.
In addition to programs, another area West Chester could improve in is the commuter lounge, the “Home Away From Home” in the bottom floor of Sykes. I went to this lounge during my first week of commuting and was underwhelmed. We, the 60% of the WCU student population, are given a hallway of a lounge with a single refrigerator and a broken microwave. This lounge is also used by many on campus students to relax in, which they have every right to do, but it does take away from a sort of haven commuters should have to retreat to. What we really need is an entire lounge dedicated to commuters with every service we could want, such as multiple refrigerators, microwaves, maybe even a small kitchen, as well as sofas and extra laptop chargers. Commuters deserve a place they can relax and take a quick nap without hesitation.
Many people consider commuting a disadvantage since it disconnects them from the campus and makes getting a degree even harder, but it shouldn’t be this way. Commuters should feel supported, welcomed and appreciated. This is not the case currently at WCU.
Maria Marabito is a third year English-writings major with a literature minor. MM88365@wcupa.edu