A closer look at whether or not the commuter-resident divide stereotype exists at Niagara University
LEWISTON, NY – Just over a year ago, high school seniors across the country sat at their computer researching what it is like to be a commuter. Some had recently made the decision to commute and some have known it for weeks. Almost all of these soon to be commuters were thrilled at the thought of going to their top school, and saving lots of money in the process. In just one night of reading articles, blogs and columns on commuting to college, their outlook of being a commuter had been turned upside down. All of the pieces that they read said things like “commuters don’t make any friends…..commuters are basically outcasts……It’s super tough to get involved as a commuter…” Upon reading these pieces online, their excitement for college disappeared and reappeared as anxiety.
To get a pulse of this supposed disconnect, a number of commuters and residents decided to speak on the matter. Overall, some mixed diagnoses on this “divide” were received.
John Callahan, who is a commuter from Pendleton, New York, firmly believes there is a disconnect between commuters and residents. “I feel commuters have their own commuter section and residence hang out in their halls and everything like that. I don’t think there’s a really a good intermediate place to like do stuff,” Callahan said.
As to why that is, Callahan said factors like restricted parking decrease his motivation to come back to campus, especially during the winter time. “I’m going to go there [NU], I’m going to have to park, then I’m going to have to walk in the freezing cold to get to the event because I’m not allowed to park anywhere [mainly in the Dwyer Arena parking lot]. It doesn’t make sense for me to want to come back to campus to have to park in a parking spot that’s forever away from everything and on top of that freeze unless I want to bundle up for like a snowstorm,” Callahan said.
According to Parking in niagara.edu, commuters are allowed to park in “… yellow spaces only, [whereas residents can park in] yellow spaces only in DePaul, O’Shea, Dwyer 24 hour, or Apartment parking lots.”
The parking alignment, as it is, makes it seem like the school is casting away commuters, sentencing them to parking mainly in the Dwyer Arena parking lot. If the goal is to unite commuters and residents of NU, making the commuters get to the heart of campus all the way from Dwyer is not helping the cause.
Katie Apholz, a sophomore who makes her commute from Akron, New York, has had the full experience of being both a commuter and a resident; she lived on campus her freshman year.
She made the switch over to becoming a commuter because she said, “First and foremost I like it better than living here [on campus], and secondly it saves a ton money.”
Just how much money you ask? According to Estimated Costs on niagara.edu, students who live in a residence hall and purchase a meal plan, are estimated to spend just under $13,000 per year. As opposed to commuter students who spend an estimated $3,500 on food and transportation, assuming the commuter lives at home for free. That’s almost $10,000 that stays in commuters’ pockets.
When asked if there was a divide between commuters and students Apholz said, “I wouldn’t say so … I don’t feel any differently towards the friends I have and everything … you know we spend just as much time together it’s easy to be commuting and get together for lunch or whatever so there’s no disconnect.”
Another resident that spoke on the topic was Tyler Bingham, a sophomore from Walpole, Massachusetts. When asked about a divide among NU residents and commuters he said, “I would say that at times there can be, just in terms of availability seeing friends and what not, but overall plenty of commuters are just as invested in the school as residents.”
Bingham also weighed in on whether or not he thinks the school is the driving cause for closing the gap. He said, “No, I think the school does an excellent job, and often over extends itself in appealing to commuters. They make all events widely known often weeks before they happen. They even offer a club on campus that commuters can join to ensure they are welcomed at these events.”
The club Bingham is referring to is the Commuter Advisory Board. The president of C.A.B (Commuter Advocacy Board), Elizabeth Faxlanger, said “[C.A.B.] is a club open to commuters and residents … Each month we’ll have one meeting and we like to do commuter appreciation days where we’ll have a table at the front of Gally (Gallagher Center) and we’ll have the Plinko board out and people can win fun prizes.”
Picture: C.A.B.’s Logo. Follow them on Twitter @NUCommuters for updates on their interest meeting, which is this week.
Typically the club does not run into any commuter troubles, and even the president of C.A.B. does not think there is a disconnect.
“I don’t think [there’s a divide amongst residents and commuters] overall, because commuters are on campus and they’re meeting with other people. Especially those who are involved in other clubs, they’re getting to meet the residents so they’re making friendships with them … If people do bring something up then yeah we’ll help them with it, but for the most part nothing ever really comes up to that extent,” Faxlanger said.
NU recently introduced NU BnB. “The new NU BnB program allows students – undergraduate and graduate – to book overnight packages that may include accommodations and breakfast vouchers, depending on the length of stay,” read a campus press release.
According to NU BnB on Niagara.edu, if you want to spend the night on campus, it will cost you $40. You can also stay for 5 nights, 10, or even $40. That’ll cost $175, $320, and $810 respectively. This will give commuters the full experience of what it’s like to be a resident.
Joseph Jeffery, junior and resident from Clinton, New York, shared his thoughts on this supposed disconnect. He said, “I personally do not feel a disconnect, because in my experience at NU, I have developed numerous friendships with commuters and feel there’s equal opportunity in and out of class.
As a perk of being a resident, Joey is entering his second year as a Community Advisor. “…[A]s a C.A. [community advisor] floor programs for my residents are always neat to put together and fun for those on campus to get to know each other better. It’s also nice to get the information about upcoming events and activities around campus thanks to flyers and advertisements made by functions such as campus activities,” Jeffery said. Floor programs are monthly meetings community advisors hold for their residents.
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