Undergraduate Student Government Commuter Senators shared progress on their proposal to create a lounge for commuter students on campus at the weekly Senate meeting Tuesday night.
The proposal, drafted in conjunction with the University Affairs branch of USG, was spearheaded by Commuter Senators Michael Johnson, Hayden Smith, and Brianna Thorpe.
“When you come to USC as a commuter, there’s no place to just relax and decompress between classes,” Smith said. “Although the libraries are there, it would be helpful to have a place that could also be used a social space to interact with other commuter students.”
According to the commuter senators, students who commute to campus daily often feel overlooked by peers and administration and disconnected from the larger university community. Long gaps between morning classes and evening classes can pose a problem for commuter students who have no place to go on campus between those times. The proposed commuter lounge would serve as a practical gathering place for these students.
The commuter senators hope that the lounge will benefit their constituents by increasing connectivity to campus and also providing a place for commuters to meet each other. The Senators plan for the space to have a microwave, refrigerator, lockers, computers and printers, as well as couches and televisions to facilitate a social atmosphere. The lounge would also feature monitors with campus news and traffic updates.
“The lockers would be beneficial,” Johnson said in a statement. “Commuter students are at a real disadvantage if they forget any materials at home. Residential or Greek students can run across the street and secure what they forgot, while we must either travel home in L.A. traffic and miss class or continue through our day unprepared.”
Smith first proposed the idea of creating a commuter lounge last April as a part of his campaign platform. During the last semester, the commuter senators collected feedback for the project from their constituents through social media and by tabling on campus.
According to the commuter senators, other top colleges such as Yale University, Duke University, New York University, Northwestern University, American University and Brandeis University have dedicated on-campus spaces for commuter students.
According to the senators, the exact number of commuter students is unknown and largely undisclosed by university officials.
“Every number we get is different … It’s sad that there isn’t clear evidence of commuter students’ impact on this campus. I think it is a indication of the lack of inclusivity for commuter students,” Thorpe said.
In order to minimize costs, the commuter senators expressed interest in utilizing existing campus resources to create the lounge space — specifically in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center. Smith and Thorpe stated that they had plans to meet with the director of the Tutor Campus Center in order to identify a possible room for the lounge. Until the Commuter Lounge space is designated, the commuter senators plan to create a resource guide that identifies locations on campus where students who commute can rest between classes.
Thirty-one percent of those surveyed reported a commute time of more than an hour. According to the commuter senators, the lengthy commute times do not necessarily mean that the student lives far from campus, but instead that traffic is heavy during their commutes. Of the 112 students surveyed, 104 reported commuting during rush hour periods. Nearly all of the students claimed that a commuter lounge would allow them to stay on campus longer during the day.
The senators also expressed concern about parking on campus for commuter students.
“It’s a problem when you come to campus, and then you go to your designated structure where you pay over $400 a semester to park, and there are no available spaces for you,” Smith said.
The limited availability of parking adds time to commutes and often causes commuters to get ticketed for parking improperly in order to get to class on time. Smith expressed interest in utilizing Park Assist technology like what has been used near the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica to alleviate traffic around campus.
As the senators’ terms come to an end in several weeks, the senators expressed hope that their successors will continue to move forward with the commuter lounge project.
“It would be extremely useful to get more user feedback … The one thing that people listen to is data because it show that what we are saying is not made up. It’s not just a personal anecdote. It’s a real problem,” Smith said.