When SGA commuter senator Olivia Daniel was asked what she thought some of the more pressing issues facing commuter students were, Daniel had a lot to say. “It’s hard for commuters to get involved, and stay involved,” Daniel said.
She also cited a lack of communication between commuters, the cost and availability of healthy food options on campus and the limited availability of options for class and club times. Daniel, a commuter herself, feels that commuters are disadvantaged in that they cannot always fully participate with activities on campus, and may not get the full experience of attending Maryville College.
“I want to make sure that the commuters feel like the school is doing their best to make it as accommodating as possible with things that are not in our control,” Daniel said. “But I don’t think the college can always fix all those disadvantages.”
Daniel wants to address concerns from commuters and encourage them to interact with each other to help solve their problems and provide a sense of support for each other. Daniel believes it is important the problems facing commuter students be addressed, given that, according to director of campus life, Kristen Gourley, commuters are a significant portion of the student population, as for the 2012-13 school year, there are 729 full-time resident students and 306 full-time commuter students.
That means a third of the population is facing the challenges of commuting, which go beyond simply having a longer trip to get to class. Gourley also said that a commuter group does exist, called “Campus Commuters and Friends,” which seeks to provide support for commuter students and provide a community for them that might not exist otherwise.
According to Daniel, commuters do face certain challenges. Most classes are offered during the day, and most campus activities take place in the evening after classes are finished, and parking itself can prove problematic if students are arriving during the midday. MC president Dr. Tom Bogart agrees that these can sometimes pose problems for commuters. He also said that the current course schedule had been decided some time ago, to work in accordance with providing time for not only courses, but for worship, faculty meetings, club time and other extracurricular activities such as sports, as well.
“One of the ongoing questions here is, what is the best class schedule to accommodate both resident students and commuter students,” Bogart said. “Evening classes are often talked about as an issue for commuter students, as an opportunity for people who are working during business hours, so evening hours make it possible to balance that.”
Bogart said that the possibility of night classes had been discussed, but that there were several issues that would need to be addressed before it could be realistically considered, including ensuring that faculty hired for these classes would be of the quality that MC requires.
Bogart also emphasized the importance of social networking in regards to providing a communication base He also suggested that the commuter senator was a great resource for commuter students to use as a point for addressing any problems they might encounter.
“If we’re looking to do something administratively,” Bogart said. “That is one of the main reasons that we have a student government association, is so that the students can articulate: ‘here are the needs,’ and they actually control financial resources, so there is a really clear voice in not only articulating the needs, but being able to act, to address them if possible.”
Bogart explained that there is no one solution for the issues that commuters face, and he does want those students to have as full an experience at Maryville as possible, but that effort will be required from both sides for a good solution to be found: “I think it’s got to be everyone working on it together.”