New project addresses the needs of commuter students

Vivian Jaber ‘24 presented the College administration with her findings about what commuters want.

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Cars park around the circle, surrounding the school. Photo courtesy of Assistant Photo Editor, Maddie Ciliento '25.

Unlike some of its neighboring institutions, Muhlenberg College is not known for having a large population of commuter students. With a little more than 1,800 undergraduates attending the College, only 103 of them commute from home to class. In order to be allowed to commute, students must reside with their parents or guardians within a 30-mile radius of Muhlenberg. One commuter, Vivian Jaber ‘24, noticed a lack of attention given to this student group and decided to create a peer education project for her Organizational and Leadership/Peer Education class. 

Jaber explained the nature of her project saying, “For my project I’m focusing on allocating more resources to commuter students on campus.” The project consisted of Jaber sending out a survey to commuters in order to “get a sense of what resources they’d like to have, how the College can better fulfill their needs, and if there are any issues they’d like to have addressed. Looking at the survey results, the majority of those who filled it [out] wished that there was a commuter lounge with a microwave and minifridge so they can have a place to relax in between classes, heat up or store their food, charge their computers and phones and store their belongings.”

“For my project I’m focusing on allocating more resources to commuter students on campus.”

Vivian Jaber ‘24

Another primary issue that arose from Jaber’s research was the lack of parking on campus available for commuter students’ use. “A lot of commuters have the same common issue: parking. Commuters pay for the parking sticker, but are not always guaranteed a spot. Campo tickets students often. The circle can’t be utilized as student parking. The Fahy Commons’ parking spots are for faculty only,” noted Jaber. 

Jaber worked in conjunction with Director of Student Transitions and Family Programs Tim Black in coordinating this project. Black commented on his involvement in the project saying, “[Jaber] came to me at the beginning of the semester and I was on board because, in my new role, this was an area the College was already starting to explore. Vivian’s survey and the results have reinforced the need to further enhance the commuter experience. The suggestions that she has put forth, as a result, will significantly benefit commuter students. We have some plans in the works to provide temporary solutions while also continuing to expand to permanent solutions as well.”

Current Student Government Association (SGA) President Ben Eber ‘23 expressed his support for increased resource allocation for commuter students saying, “I think a commuter lounge is an incredibly reasonable request and a very doable project. The lounge should include a microwave and fridge, couches, storage space; a space to provide the comforts of home. A commuter parking lot, in an ideal world, would also be great. More than just providing commuters with material space, SGA can work with clubs to make event times and locations more accessible to commuters, not only so they don’t have to drive in the middle of the night, but also to increase their connection to outside-of-class campus life. A commuter club is a unique idea that was brought up and would help them partner with other groups to see this through. This club would also be able to receive funding from SGA if they have their own events.”

As a recently elected representative for the SGA, Jaber plans to serve as a voice for commuter students. On why she ran for the position Jaber explained that “I ran because I realized that there is no commuter representative on SGA while I was doing this project and there should be so I applied for the position.” 

Jaber also noted that President-elect Jake Forstein ‘24 has expressed interest in creating an ad hoc committee that she would lead in order to prioritize commuter-related concerns. Forstein stated “I plan to set up a committee within the first few weeks of the semester, working with Vivian (likely having her as the ad-hoc chair). The goals of the ad-hoc will be focused on providing more resources to commuter students, such as a commuter lounge, more commuter parking and a resource similar to the RA role.”

“The College in general should recognize that commuters face issues that residential students don’t and they should send out surveys at least once an academic year, maybe even once a semester, to see what the most pressing issues are and try to come up with ways to solve them.”

Amanda Sodl ‘23

Jaber is not the only commuter with these concerns. Amanda Sodl ‘23 expressed her opinion saying, “oftentimes as a commuter it feels like I have nowhere to go in between classes or if I’m waiting for something. Anyone else can just go back to their room or to their ‘usual’ place since they spend significantly more time on campus, but as a commuter it’s often hard to find somewhere to go where you don’t feel out of place.” Sodl continued stating “I know Vivian has been working on her commuter project and issued a survey about a month ago, but it shouldn’t be up to a student to gather that data. The College in general should recognize that commuters face issues that residential students don’t and they should send out surveys at least once an academic year, maybe even once a semester, to see what the most pressing issues are and try to come up with ways to solve them.” 

Katie is a Media & Communication and Political Science double major in the class of 2024. When she's not working on the paper you can find her blasting Taylor Swift, reading Jane Austen, or crying over Little Women (2019).

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