Rutgers has notoriously always had a large commuter population. Reportedly, more than 50 percent of students either commute or live off-campus. This is no surprise, as Rutgers—New Brunswick has an ideal location in Central Jersey, making it widely accessible to students who want to commute across the state.
The point of a public educational institution is to ensure that it is accessible both financially and geographically. While commuting undoubtedly has financial benefits, there always seems to be this all-consuming isolation and separation from the rest of campus.
Many students will anonymously post to Reddit or Rutgers Missed Connections on Instagram to virtually discuss their struggles. What seems to be the most common piece of advice to commuters is to "get involved."
While this is pivotal for commuters to feel connected to their school's community, one cannot help but wonder what the University and on-campus community can do to make commuters feel more included and integrated on campus.
The Daily Targum's editorial board sat down to discuss what can be done to address the issue in the most productive and realistic way, and we identified two main issues: parking options and community integration.
When it comes to what Rutgers can do, the school should focus on improving the parking situation for commuters. Not only do commuter students pay an egregious amount of money for a parking pass, but they will also often be left circling the campus for 20 minutes just trying to find an open spot — especially on the College Avenue campus.
The price of a commuter pass per semester for the College Avenue and Douglass campuses is $200, and $90 a semester for the Busch, Cook and Livingston campuses. But what is the point of paying for a parking pass when you may have to pay for street parking or risk parking illegally in order to get to class on time?
It is known that many students will illegally park in lots without a parking pass to avoid using the buses. This causes parking lots to fill up, leaving few spots available for those who have paid for a parking pass. While it is understandable to want to avoid the buses and pay for an expensive parking pass, Rutgers has a duty to respect those who paid for a parking pass.
To remedy this situation, Rutgers could move to a parking system that requires students to swipe their Rutgers ID before entering a parking lot, as many faculty lots do. Additionally, each student will be given an assigned spot so they are not worried about not having one.
Along with this proposal, as an additional incentive, Rutgers can start hosting parking spot raffles, in which it raffles off a few free parking passes each semester or gives away priority parking passes that allow students to pick exactly which spot they would like.
While Rutgers can handle the parking situation on behalf of their commuting students, the other aspect of commuting needs to be addressed by the Rutgers community: making sure that commuters do not feel alone.
If you hear that someone in one of your classes is a commuter, take the extra effort to introduce yourself and invite them on a study date to keep them connected to campus. Maybe invite them to a football game on the weekend so that they make sure to experience that campus spirit.
As a collective, we remind commuters that they are just as entitled to take advantage of Rutgers' libraries, gyms and mental health resources as anyone else. In order to embody a truly beloved community, commuters should feel comfortable taking up as much space on campus as they wish.
Additionally, commuters should be made aware of the commuter community that is available to them on campus. Rutgers Commuter Student Association (RCSA) hosts multiple events throughout the year to bring commuters together, offer them advice and point them to the different commuter lounges on campus, located in the Student Centers on the Busch and Douglass campuses.
Many clubs tend to meet at night, which can be difficult for commuters who may not want or be able to drive home late at night. To avoid putting commuters in a tough situation, clubs should consider holding some meetings during the day. They can still keep a night option, but opting to have a mid-day or morning option may better accommodate commuters.
While community integration is primarily on the student body to facilitate with commuters, Rutgers can also support this mission by continuing to provide community spaces for students to congregate and interact.
While we may not all agree on the food quality of Brower Commons on the College Avenue campus, and many commuters may not have a meal plan, Brower Commons is a prime example of a lost on-campus community space.
The now-closed dining hall was a large gathering area that gave students the opportunity to bump into classmates and share a meal together with some tunes in the background. Now, the main dining space is located in The Atrium.
But can the Atrium even be considered a dining hall? The seating is so limited that many students are forced to pack their food as takeout and leave the premises. This loss of a large gathering place further perpetuates isolation among students.
If fostering community between on-campus and off-campus students is important to Rutgers, it must provide large community spaces that encourage student interaction.
Maybe a new dining hall is not the best option for commuters who may not have a meal plan, but some new study spaces could be good ideas to bring more students together.
For the time being, the Rutgers community should continue to use the spaces around them, especially commuters. But we can all help them feel welcome by simply asking a commuter to grab a coffee after class.
Sometimes, small gestures can go a long way to improve someone's day, especially those enduring a daily commute.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 155th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.