Commuter corner sees decline in community

By Anna Toth

Spacious with floor length windows, long couches and cubicle desks, the Commuter Corner on the third floor of the Student Center offers a space for students to spend time outside of the classroom and their studies.

From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., commuter students can be seen in the space chatting with friends, doing homework, playing video games or heating up food in the microwave.

The space is supposed to exemplify the opportunities and support that Cleveland State gives its commuter students.

A closer look at the details of the center reveals broken computers, broken file cabinets and dirty windows.

“The same broken file cabinets have been here since my freshman year,” sophomore Halley Turner said.

Going off of Turner’s comments, her friends who have attended the university longer continue to point out computers that have been broken for years, as well as things that haven’t been washed or noticed by staff.

“There’s always something new in the dorms, but I’ve seen the same broken furniture for the two years that I’ve been here,” Turner said. “It feels less welcoming.”

Turner and her friends are all commuter students and most of them visit the lounge on an almost daily basis for the past two to three years. All of them are of the consensus that the lounge has changed and generally offers less for commuter students than when they first started.

“I remember we got tickets to an Indians game once through the lounge, and we all walked to the stadium together,” Scott Widdowson, a computing engineering major, said. “It was fun, but there isn’t really stuff like that anymore.”

Field trips aren’t the only events missing for commuter students. Events like Peanut Butter and Jelly Wednesdays once allowed students to get free food and eat with their fellow commuter students, while video game tournaments and movie nights that used to bring them together have been discontinued as well.

These events used to give students the opportunity to win Commuter Cash which could later be traded for raffle tickets and prizes at the end of the semester — meaning that many commuter students had incentive to show up to the events, outside of having fun.  

This year, there have been no events except for coffee and danishes at the beginning of the semester.

Widdowson thinks that the lack of events has contributed to the lack of unity within the commuter lounge in the last couple of years.

“Rarely do people just go up and talk to each other,” Widdowson said. “Usually there’s an event or there’s a movie night that gets people talking to each other and becoming acquaintances then later friends.”

When the Student Center opened eight years ago, there was a specific person in charge of the Vikes Commute program to make sure that commuter students felt welcomed and included on campus.

Three people have held that position in roughly eight years, with Web and Marketing specialist Dan Lenhart taking over the Vikes Commute program this past August after the previous director left.

“Being as short staffed as we are, we haven’t had time to do any programs this year, unfortunately,” Lenhart said, speaking of the Center for Student Involvement and Student Life in general.

The Vikes Commuter Program and commuter lounge were initially created to provide students an opportunity to be a part of a community, which is an essential part of the college experience that commuter students could otherwise miss out on.

Lenhart would ideally like to have more events in the future, perhaps pairing up with the Campus Activities Board to make it possible. However, he reiterates multiple times that it’s not his call, but rather up to the administration and staff.

“We are a commuter school. Less than 10 percent of the students live in dorms,” Lenhart said. “But there’s so many unknowns. I’m not in a position to make promises.”

Some of the controlling factors that could affect the future of the commuter program are the new university president’s involvement and the restructuring of Student Life and the Center for Student Involvement.

For now, his focus has been keeping the lounge open for student organizations  who use the majority of the desk spaces and commuters to use.

“I don’t want to speak for the administration as to what their plans are, but I’ve done the best that I can to make sure the space is at least open for students to use,” Lenhart said.

Part of keeping the space open involves paying student workers to oversee it. Their responsibilities on an average day range from making sure people check in to renting out video game equipment.

For the most part, they sit at a small cubicle at the very front of the room by the door where they can see most of the room.

While the lounge has video games for students to play, Widdowson recalls how people used to bring in their own video games as well.

“There were all these people bringing Wiis and Game Cubes to play Super Smash Bros.,” Widdowson said.

Bringing in video games was just one way that students would add to the the lounge. Sometimes if it’s noticed that the lounge needs something, students take it upon themselves to bring it in.

Widdowson brought in an extension cord and recalls another student bringing in plastic forks for the room to use while they’re there.

Keeping the space open is helpful for the commuter students. Relying on public transportation can sometimes mean showing up an hour or two before your class starts and leaving hours after the last class.

The commuter lounge is a place where students can store their food, heat it up, take a nap and work on homework, but some feel that the spirit has been lost.

“It feels like there’s no life here,” commuter student Brianna Hohenfeld said. “There’s nothing that’s felt unified or together.”

 

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