Editorial: Changes to Commuter Lounge first step in inclusivity

It might be a relatively small, hidden space, but the recently renovated Commuter Lounge is a big deal for many students.

The lounge was refurbished with new armchairs and ottomans and is located in the west basement of Thwing Center. Its other amenities include two study rooms, a kitchenette, a game room and a TV room. The area is meant to be a place for students who live both far from and near campus to connect with one another and feel more at home in an environment that many commuters feel is unwelcoming.

For those who have lived on campus since the beginning of their undergraduate lives, this notion of struggling to mix with peers outside the classroom might be difficult to understand. The Residence Hall Association works to help first-year students familiarize themselves with campus, and the close-knit layout of the North Residential Village makes it easy for students to feel like they’re a part of a community. Even those who live on the more isolated South Side of campus are still surrounded by residence halls and fraternity and sorority houses. Students who live on campus also have the advantage of central common rooms where they can come together and get to know each other.

It’s not so easy for some of the 22 percent of CWRU students who live off-campus. As it turns out, living at home can actually make the college experience a lot more difficult. Commuter students have to deal with unpredictable public transportation schedules or traffic, and plan extra time to travel to and from campus. They have to navigate college social life while living at home, a task that can be draining for some.

An unwelcoming campus environment only compounds those problems. Before the renovations, the basement lounge was unpolished, with pipes protruding from the ceiling, and often dirty. Many commuter students weren’t even aware of this unappealing space, due to the lack of signs pointing it out. It didn’t help when the lounge lost a study room across the hall in 2015 which is now used for storage.

Thanks to the Commuter and Off Campus Organization, the renovated Commuter Lounge with a remodeled living room, new furniture and fully functional study space is closer to being a place for commuter students to connect with each other and relax between classes. More importantly, it’s a place they can make into their own. A periodic Commuter Newsletter, as well as seven Community Hour events planned for this fall, help to keep students feeling involved.

The new lounge is definitely an improvement, but we can all do more to help off-campus students feel like they aren’t navigating college life alone.  Commuters should advocate for themselves when they feel excluded. Students who live off campus can reach out by joining organizations and attending university events.

To help commuters (and all students) feel like they are truly living the best college experience, we can all do more to improve school spirit. It’s possible to have a strong sense of community and even pride and still be lacking in spirit. Unfortunately, this problem persists at CWRU.

Sports games have disappointingly low attendance. Campus-wide events have slightly better turnouts, but many students’ motivation for going is more based on free food than it is on a sense of school spirit. People may not take campus events like Thwing Study Over and Snowball seriously. We can solve this problem by encouraging participation and working to make these events more attractive to commuter students.

To commuters and on-campus students alike: there’s so much we can do to help every member of our school enjoy all that college has to offer. Whether you live on or off campus, you should feel welcome here.