Another satisfaction survey for the Forrest Room and Needham Courtyard arrives in our emails. And I can’t help but think, well at least they’re trying.
Though Commuter Life is trying its hardest to deal with the reality of construction and its impact on commuters, the diminishing commuter spaces coupled with the wet and cold winter weather has made surviving the semester more trying for commuter students.
In a transition on campus where SGA and OSE are trying to accommodate a growing dissatisfaction within the student body, commuter voices are just a few of many talking about the negative impact of construction and changing facilities.
According to Vanguard’s Common Data Set for the 2017-2018 school year, about 50 percent of undergraduate students are commuters. While students living in the dorms struggle with construction work waking them up at 7 a.m. or fewer meal replacement options, commuters are left to deal with equally disruptive aspects that add to the general feeling of neglect from administration as we circle the parking lot or search for places to eat a hot meal during our time on campus.
The library, a staple hangout for commuters, understandably does not allow full meals inside. The communication lab is only for students paying the access fee. The Forrest Room lacks adequate space and seating for students, which makes it a difficult place to get comfortable.
The cafeteria no longer allows for commuters to hang out or eat with their friends. Though this may be because of the limited occupancy and the added pressure on mealtime with the removal of Outtakes, there still remains a struggle for students looking to eat with their friends in a comfortable, indoor environment.
Other options commuters heavily rely on are not always available to all students. Dorm rooms and their communal areas are only a possibility for those with a friend willing and able to share their space. For many commuters, who find themselves less invested in the lives of those on campus, having close friends to hang in their room on campus may not even be a reality. Cars are sometimes a luxury students cannot afford, and other times even mobile students don’t want to crash or eat in their vehicle between every class.
Due to heavy rains, students were no longer allowed on the grass to save it from total destruction. Once again a perfectly understandable choice meant commuters especially had less options on where to sit and hang out once the weather cleared.
Even the small things can make commuters feel more put off by this transition on campus. For reasons not disclosed, even the commuter microwave by the Scott patio, once available during Samson’s hours, has now been locked a majority of the time. Instead of a quick heating of a meal, students must now make their way to the Forrest Room kitchen, if it is available.
Students tend to avoid the Forrest Room, which replaced the Cove this year, due to minimal seating and a persistent stuffiness. Additional seating outside hasn’t always been a reliable option with lower temperatures and consistent rain.
It is understandable that improvement on campus takes a bit of sacrifice from students, faculty, and staff alike to make our school a better place. There is no desire to cling to what was in exchange of what will be, but making sure students have the simple things taken care of (like a place to eat, sit, or warm their food) when other options must be taken away is among the most basic expectations.
Though smaller changes may seem harmless or go unnoticed by administration, they can build up and alienate students. And this particular inconvenience is frankly not so small.
When the school thinks of problems caused by rain, it may be a delay in construction, a leaking ceiling in a classroom, or a flood on Heath lawn. It is less apparent to administration that students are searching for places to eat or work, or huddling in Scott Courtyard against the cold. Keeping microwaves available, increasing seating in the Forrest Room, and giving students a place to eat with their friends (whether that is the caf or not) help alleviate the inconveniences for commuters that come with construction.
For many who will graduate before the Student Center is complete it is crucial to offer alternative spaces so those that graduate can look fondly back at Vanguard and remember it as home.