New groups create ways for commuters to connect

Erin Ghere

Traffic jams and parking fees aren’t the only issues many commuter students have to face; without the social opportunities on-campus housing affords, meeting fellow students can be equally challenging.
The Commuter Connection is attempting to encourage commuter students to form their own social circles on campus by creating a place for them to assemble.
Since fall, “Commuters Unite” has served that purpose, said Jordana Whyte, a University commuter assistant.
The social gathering, held every Tuesday and Wednesday at 11 a.m., is intended to allow students who would otherwise eat or study alone to come and meet other students at the same time.
“It’s an informal gathering that we do for commuter students so they can meet people,” said Whyte, a cultural studies and comparative literature senior.
Twice a week, commuter students are invited to meet in Coffman Union, alternating between room 306 and the basement TV room, during their lunch hour. Students can bring food or do homework during the one-hour congregation.
The students hang out, talk and sometimes play board games, said frequent attendee Geoffrey Benson.
“Being a commuter, it is harder to meet people, so this is a pretty great deal,” said Benson, a computer science junior.
“We wanted to go to where they (commuter students) are, rather than draw them away,” Whyte said.
Knowing many commuter students spend their time between classes at Coffman, Whyte and Chad Pahl, also a commuter assistant, organized the event to take place there.
Whyte and Pahl are also on hand at that time to answer students’ commuting questions.
The Commuter Connection was formed in July and began its first focused outreach to students during fall orientation.
Through fall quarter, they targeted freshmen who were not able to live in residence halls on campus, according to Whyte.
“(Freshmen) need more help orientating and getting to know people,” Whyte said.
Although many participants are freshmen, upperclassmen and transfer students also attend events. Whyte estimates that more than 30,000 students commute to campus.
Along with the Commuter Connection, a newly formed student organization also looks to aid commuter students.
The Commuter Council is a student organization which works with the Commuter Connection to reach out to students living off campus.
“Right now the two work together,” said Whyte, who is also the president of the Commuter Council. “When there is more involvement from the students, the Commuter Council could take a different direction.”
The Commuter Council has applied for grant funding, according to Whyte, and should receive a decision later this week.
If they receive funding, the council is looking at organizing a skiing and snowboarding trip as well as other winter events.
Both the Commuter Connection and the Commuter Council were a result of actions taken close to one year ago, said Whyte.
At that time, University President Mark Yudof began looking into the difference in attitudes between students who live on-campus and those who commute.
“We’re very excited about it (the commuter programs),” said Jane Canney, associate vice president of Student Development and Athletics. “We want to make sure that there is something on campus for commuter students as well,” she said.
Students who participate agree, according to Benson.
“I just wish more people would get involved,” he said. “Once the word gets out, hopefully more people will come.”