'Commuter Conversations' gives off-campus students a voice

Commuters hang out in the Commuter Affairs Lounge. (Photo by Wade Jones)

By Nathan Burns

When the topic of college is brought up, the most common thoughts that enter one’s mind are those of wild parties, tuition fees, all-night study sessions, and the student living in the dormitories on campus. The latter of those thoughts, at least for Fitchburg State University, is gradually drifting toward being an anachronism.

Faced with the increasing pressure to alleviate expenses, more and more students are opting to simply commute from home, rather than deal with life in the dormitories. In the case of Fitchburg State University, this deviation from the traditional view of college life is quickly becoming the norm. As of the most recent assessment by the University, commuter students make up about 48 percent of the student body, and it is likely that the percentage will climb in the coming years.

The growing commuter population at Fitchburg State is feeling continually left out of school and student events. All too often a commuter student must pass up an event that he or she would otherwise be interested in attending, due to the conflicts in one’s schedule. Thanks to the Fitchburg State Commuter Affairs Program, commuters now have a regular outlet in the form of “Commuter Conversations.”

“In a nutshell, our job is to make commuters a bigger part of the university,” says Josh Whipple, manager of Commuter Affairs and one of the major figures involved with “Commuter Conversations.”

This new program seeks to create a laid-back environment where commuter students are provided with free lunch, and are encouraged to air any questions or concerns that they might have regarding upcoming events, the general upkeep of the campus, or any other issues that they might have about their regular commute and their time spent on-campus.

“We had done other events in the past, but no regular programs,” said Whipple, concerning the origins of the “Commuter Conversations” program. “We wanted a place where commuters can get together without being bombarded with information.”

“Commuter Conversations” are being held bi-weekly on Wednesdays in the Main Lounge of the Hammond Campus Building near the library, with the next meeting projected to be held on Feb. 22, barring any unforeseen changes. All commuter students are invited and encouraged to attend, even if it is only to take advantage of the free lunch. Anyone who wishes to learn more about “Commuter Conversations” or any upcoming commuter-related programs or events should visit the Commuter Affairs desk, which can be found in the Commuter Lounge located on the ground floor of the Hammond building.