Commuter Student Lounge proves too small for hang-out spot
By YOUSEF NASSER
Commuter students at the University of Mary Washington see drawbacks with the Commuter Student Lounge that prevent it from being a more widely used resource.
Laura Gilchrist, a senior historic preservation major who serves as the president of the Commuter Student Association in the Student Government Association, says the lounge has existed in the University Center since the building was opened in the fall semester of 2015. Before the completion of the University Center, there was a commuter lounge located in The Link, between Mason and Randolph Halls.
“Unfortunately, the commuter lounge is quite a small space,” Gilchrist said. “Its maximum occupancy is 26 people, and the commuter student population makes up at least a third of our campus so we can’t fit a lot of students in there.”
The lounge, located in room 114 of the University Center, “is equipped with couches, chairs, tables, a microwave and other amenities.”
The UMW Commuter Student Services webpage defines a commuter student as being “anyone living off campus.” According to data provided by the U.S. News College Rankings website, 43 percent of UMW students live off campus.
Vice President of the SGA Ethan Carter, a junior accounting major who is the living on campus, likened the commuter lounge to a residential student’s dorm room.
“[The commuter lounge] almost fills the space that residential students might spend in their dorms,” Carter said. “Even though the commuter lounge isn’t their primary living space, it’s just a nice little extra place to come together.”
“The purpose of the commuter lounge is to give commuter students an area to relax, study and socialize while they are on campus,” Gilchrist said. “Commuters can live anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours away and so it’s nice to just have a place [for commuter students] to hang out in between classes and throughout the day.”
Paige Voccio, a senior communications and digital studies student, has a different perspective. Voccio was a residential student for her freshman and sophomore years. She started commuting her junior year and is commuting this year as well.
“One of the biggest differences that I see [as a commuter student] is that your life no longer revolves around campus,” Voccio said. “When you are on campus and you live in the dorms with all of your friends and you see everyone on your floor, you do things on campus all the time.”
“Now that I’m a commuter and I live off campus it takes me about 35 to 45 minutes to get home depending on traffic,” Voccio said. “I’m reluctant to stay on campus after classes because I need to go home to either do things or go to work.”
While aware of the commuter lounge, Voccio says that she never makes use of it. “I have never been to the UC commuter lounge because I don’t really have any time to be in the UC. Usually when I come on campus, I go straight to class,” Voccio said.
Gilchrist acknowledged that the size of the commuter lounge could be a reason why more students do not make use of it.
Voccio suggested that if the university was able to create several commuter-designated areas across campus that would meet the needs of commuter students who have busy schedules. “If I had classes in the same building, I would love to have a place to go in that building or closer to that building,” Voccio said.
Gilchrist conceded that the commuter lounge as presently constructed might not ever truly meet the needs of commuter students at UMW. If there were to be a lounge in every academic building specifically for commuter students then that would accommodate our large commuter population.
“In general, there isn’t really a way that this particular lounge could better meet the needs of commuters, [they] just need a larger space,” Gilchrist said. “While commuter students technically have access to all academic buildings and communal spaces on campus, it’s nice to have a designated area that is [only for commuters] and it’s just hard to fit more than ten people in the [commuter lounge] comfortably.”