Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Commuter Students Ask for Visibility

    Seattle University could start hearing more from a group on campus that has long been marginalized: commuter students.

    Discontented with their often unsatisfying role on campus, some commuters are working to develop new means for advocacy and community.

    Back in September, senior and commuter student Robert Gavino received two complaints within a week about the institution’s regard for commuters. Gavino, who has faced struggles as a commuter himself and knows others who have too, reached out to other students with an idea. While there are some issues that commuter students want to see progressing this year, Gavino’s goal is to first give a voice to those issues and the students behind them.

    Gavino started meeting with various commuters, asking them about their complaints, experiences and connections with the hope of bringing these to the attention of the higher administration.

    “[We want to] essentially figure out what is the commuter voice, what is the commuter experience and get solid student feedback, experience and stories down so we can go to the administration,” Gavino said. “We can go to staff and faculty and say these are the facts, these are the lived experiences of many students. And these are the patterns we’re seeing over talking to many students.”

    Lynn Doan, a sophomore and recent Commuter Student Rep-elect, has a couple of issues in mind that she would like to address, particularly regarding commuter transportation and parking.

    In addition to the difficulty of finding parking spaces, the commuter bus passes that students can get cost them $300 dollars for the entire year. According to Doan, this can add significant financial stress.

    “Most of the time students who are commuting chose to do that to save money,” Doan said in reference to on-campus housing costs. “[Paying for housing is] a huge financial burden.”

    Another issue that is important to Doan is locker space. The lockers in the Student Center cost money to rent, and collegium lockers are shared, resulting in minimal available storage. There are several collegia on campus which offer resources and spaces for commuter students during the day. Doan is a part of the Lynn Collegium, and because of their locally-themed learning community, Doan has gotten to connect with some service work in the area.

    “That’s where we’re from, but it gives us a different lens to look at these communities,” Doan said.

    For the first time this academic year, freshmen commuters were automatically enrolled in the Lynn Collegium.

    Even with a designated place to hang out, Doan says that commuters have to plan for their entire day when they come to school, with everything they might need. That means they need a place to store it.

    “For us, we have to carry our lives in our backpacks. Our entire lives,” Doan said.

    But Doan and Gavino both agree that the most important commuter issue to address is language. According to Doan, it is sometimes hard to tell from the language the university uses whether certain aspects of the university include them or not. Gavino said it is a sentiment that implies a degree of disrespect.

    “The lack of structures including commuter students into the general events and programming on this campus communicated a lack of regard and a lack of respect and a lack of acknowledgement of commuter students,” Gavino said.

    With this in mind, one of Gavino’s biggest aims with his project is to change the university language to include commuter students, which this year, could start with a thorough education of campus student leaders.

    “An ultimate goal is changing culture around how we talk about life on campus, especially commuting students, because oftentimes the language that’s used, especially at orientation for example, is assuming that everyone lives on campus and lives in a residence hall room, and is five minutes away from campus,” Gavino said. “Because honestly, there are also other structures at work within the functioning culture of the university that makes commuter students and the commuting experience invisible to residential students.”

    To combat this invisibility, Gavino’s vision is to collaborate with both Doan and Commuter and Transfer Student Life. CTSL is an on campus resource for commuting and transfer students. It is headed by Director Diane Schmitz.

    “The vision of Commuter & Transfer Student Life (CTSL) is that all the students we serve are fully valued, and integrated within the Seattle University community,” reads CTSL’s page on the Seattle U website. One of their main goals is to “advocate and educate the campus community about the unique experiences and needs of the students we serve.”

    Gavino said that they have done a good job of accessing student voices, and he thinks that peer-to-peer evaluation would be an important addition to the cause. He added that obtaining consistent student testimonies will support these proposals as they are brought to the attention of higher administration.

    Even if the changes are not immediate, Gavino wants commuter students to know who is advocating for them.

    Lena may be reached at [email protected]

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