There’s an entire section on the Hub dedicated to events for commuter students. The effort to include this population is thoughtful, but I can’t seem to shake whether or not these “commuter events” are effective in this push for inclusivity. Even though residents make up 51 percent of the population, I still believe student events generally target and are tailored towards those who live on campus.
The fact that there are events specifically for commuters shows that someone cares about this portion of the student body. And the initiative is definitely appreciated. But by making these events “commuter events,” there is an inherent distinction between residents and commuters. The separation of these two groups, as subtle and innocent as the name of the event may seem, is still apparent. If the point of these events is to make commuters feel more integrated into the Cal Lutheran community, then why aren’t these events more focused on bringing both the residents and commuter students together?
Kaitlyn Parra who is a commuter at California Lutheran said, “I feel like the best way to make commuter students feel included is by including them in events with on campus students. Most commuter events are solely for commuters and they almost feel separate from the rest of the school.”
Nicole Cameron who is also a commuter at Cal Lutheran agrees.
“Commuter events are only for commuters, so it doesn’t do a great job of integrating commuters with residents,” Cameron said.
Cal Lutheran has a distinct culture of smiles and friendly hello’s. I just don’t think that’s enough for students who miss out on the events held late at night or the ones that are impromptu. I’ve missed out on events just because I didn’t know. It can be very frustrating to rely on word-of-mouth communication to be in the know about what’s going on at Cal Lutheran. I’ve missed out on late night events like Common Ground and improv just because the drive home would be long after a full day of school and work.
Parra added, “The events most on campus students go to are hardly ever publicized for commuters. I mostly hear about them from my friends who live on campus.”
Even though the Hub is a great resource for getting involved on campus, it can still be hard to know what’s really going on. If you go to the page for commuter events on the Hub, there is only one upcoming event. That’s because most of the commuter events are around holidays. These events typically start off by saying “drop by” because really the student union is just passing out free food, candy, or some sort of small gift. It’s not the kind of event you really socialize. You swing by because of an incentive of some sort and then you move on with your day. You don’t usually meet other commuter students and you definitely don’t mingle with residents.
The Student Union is a greatly appreciated amenity for commuter students. Not only does it host these commuter events, but it also provides lockers, a refrigerator, a microwave, study rooms, computers and a printer for commuters. But it’s noticeably separate from the rest of the university. It’s right by all the different offices and the general parking lot. I’ve heard residents repeatedly say they don’t go to the Student Union or that part of the university for that matter.
It’s no wonder these commuter events at the student union only attract commuters. These commuter events are intended to include commuters, but I think sometimes they’re more isolating than welcoming.
There are plenty of activities, organizations and clubs to join to become more involved on campus for both residents and commuters. However, I believe more can be done to make commuters feel a part of the Cal Lutheran community.
One solution is to put an additional booth or table outside of the Student Union when clubs and other Cal Lutheran offices and centers are promoting an event or even hosting an event. These booths are always on the spine which definitely reaches a large audience of both residents and commuters. However, the Student Union is distinctively a place where commuters come. If these tables were also outside the Student Union, it would attract more commuter students and make them feel like that part of school isn’t just where commuters go.
Another solution is to propose a commuter club. I think having a club where commuters could regularly meet up would offer a greater sense of community and inclusivity. It would also be a great way for commuters to meet other commuters.
Most college students consider their universities a home away from home. For commuter students, this phrase just isn’t true. But maybe it doesn’t have to be this way.