Fordham should help its commuters to be more involved on campus
by Adam Hamilton
Staff Commuter Advocate
Half of my time here at Fordham has been spent commuting. My freshman year, I was told there was not enough housing. The school determined I didn’t need it since I lived close enough to commute. When I applied, I hoped for guaranteed housing for four years, but, as it wasn’t meant to be, I jumped feet first into the commuter lifestyle. The school picked my schedule first semester and gave me an 8:30 everyday. I struggled to juggle a social life, schoolwork, planning travel on my weekends, and running for President of the CSA freshman board. The whole time, all I could think about was that my schedule was exactly like it was in high school, taking the same bus every day to head into the Bronx for school. Despite my best efforts, I lost the CSA election. I was crushed. Then, my luck seemed to turn around. Come second semester, the school found a spot for me on campus. After experiencing a hell of a semester, I figured I should take the opportunity.
Living on campus after commuting was night and day. My nights were less about trying to memorize the Bx12 schedule and more devoted to studying for my exams the following week. I had friends. Not temporaries or passersby, I had neighbors that I ran into on a regular basis. Weekend outings no longer needed an itinerary; I could just get up and go. Stuff just happened—people would invite me to play pickup basketball, or want to go grab a bite later. I now had the opportunity to be impulsive. A weight was lifted off of my shoulders.
The biggest change was dinner. Instead of being at home with my family, I formed a new family. The dining room (living room with the TV on) was replaced with a noisy and lively caf. The after dinner activities changed too. Instead of fighting over the television with my brother, my mates and I would get on Xbox together for tournaments, or go bother somebody down the hall. If they wanted to watch something I didn’t, I could just mosey over to Eddie’s for a quick breather. I could be social after five.
Sophomore year I continued to stay on campus. It was nice to choose my roommates and plan out my own space. I had time to dedicate to extracurriculars. I started writing for the paper and began tutoring. My grades improved, and I was fortunate to receive a summer internship. I met new people, including some of my best friends. It was a good year for me. I was content to go on as things were; I wanted this to last forever. But life always has other plans. My sister started college, money was tight, and so we decided that it made sense for me to come back home. I traded comfort for affordability.
I began commuting again. To add to the mix, I started working three days a week at the Clinton campaign in Brooklyn. Travel was horrendous. Without a space of my own at Fordham, the campus culture eluded me. I had to stop going to club meetings, including the paper. The seven-hour wait between my class and the club meeting did not fit my schedule. I carried all my books for all my classes at once. In my spare time, I drifted in and out of the library and the various lounges here on campus which all close by 8 p.m. I was a nomad at Fordham. I still had the friends I’d made the previous years, but I wasn’t on campus enough to see them as much as I wanted. I told myself it was one of the sacrifices of working for Hillary; however I was sorely mistaken. After the loss in November, I was crushed again. To add insult to injury, I still had trouble connecting on campus. I felt I did not have a place: not a home, not a dorm, but a place at Fordham.
On a daily basis, the commuter has to work overtime to achieve one of the fundamental challenges of the college experience–finding a sense of connection to something greater than him or herself. It blows my mind that a portion of people could feel so separate from campus culture when they are so integral to it—20% of the Fordham student body is made up of commuters! CSA did a great job of helping commuters to connect to each other, but there is still an experience of separation from the resident community.
There are a few changes that need to be made at Fordham to improve the commuter lifestyle, changes that will help all students, commuters or not, build greater community and connection:
First, from my conversations with fellow commuters, we all agree that the club times are held too late, including club sports teams. Practices and meet ups start as late as eight or nine o’clock. These clubs are a major missed opportunity because they offer networks of friends and help build self-confidence. As of now, mainly residents are attending these late sessions. Those who travel long distances are excluded. My former position on the College Democrats E-board allowed me to watch commuters slowly fade out of club meetings because of the late hours.
Second, Student Government needs to be more representative. As of now, none of the 20 USG senators are commuters despite commuters being 20% of the student body. Most kids do not even know they have senators, especially commuters. USG senators are supposed be representative of their class year, but with the low voter turnout and the large number of resident voters, there is currently little reason for them to reach out and address these commuter issues.
Third, there needs to be more commuter-friendly spaces on campus. The student center in McGinley is colloquially referred to as the commuter lounge for a reason; however, it closes early, 8:00 at night. There is little where else to go. They even got rid of the Dealy lounge, a space I often found solace in. Residents get 24-hour lounges, and the guest policy prohibits commuters from getting the same. The lounges and study space of the dorms should be accessible to commuters without needing someone signing us in. Currently, these areas are often under used and would be another opportunity for commuters and residents to bond and better get to know each other.
With these proposed changes, the freshman commuter would most certainly be better off. The engagement between commuters and residents would build Fordham camaraderie, brotherhood, and sisterhood, and help uphold Fordham’s commitment to multicultural, interdisciplinary, and intersectional learning—learning that is constructed from many voices and inclusive of all the experiences that make up our one community.
Next year is my senior year, and I will proudly wave my commuter flag. I will not give up. And, with my head held high, I will fight for any student who is looking for that place to call home at Fordham, because he or she is a reflection of me.