Commuter Column: Student examines the real definition of a commuter

“I’m barely a commuter,” declared junior Michael Sciortino when discussing this column. This statement raised the question: How do we define being a commuter?
The Association of Commuting Students (ACS), the commuter branch of the Student Government Association, gives its own description of a commuter — someone who resides off-campus. This definition is a simple one that keeps the organization’s doors open to as many people as possible. It does not distinguish between the student still living with parents or the one who lives in a rental with roommates.
Asking what makes a commuter is not as simple a question as it seems. The common thread is not residing in the residence halls. The reason behind this decision varies from person to person.
Some feel that they live too close to Rider to justify the cost of housing. Others prefer to get their own place so they do not have to move out during the breaks. Some are part-time or continuing studies students. These are only a few of many reasons people choose to commute.
“Aren’t you a commuter?” is another question asked time and time again when on campus after class ends or on weekends. Despite the perception that commuters just leave when classes end, some commuters do stay to study, work, attend events and/or socialize. This is why Sciortino calls himself “barely a commuter,” because of the amount of time he spends on campus. A former resident who switched to commuting, many of his friends still reside on campus.
In this sense, I am no different. Many of my friends are residents as well. After five semesters as a commuter, having started out as one as a freshman, the only substantial difference that exists between a commuter student and a resident is where each sleeps at night.
There are commuters who work on campus, who are involved in various extracurricular activities and who are members of Greek Life. Others leave campus as soon they get to the Commuter Lot from the Academic Quad. There are residents who do the exact same thing, except they go to their dorms after class instead of going home.
The perception that commuters are just here for class really needs to be addressed and corrected. To quote junior Gabrielle Mascio, the current ACS vice president, “We’re Rider students, too.”
Commuters pay the same tuition and fees, minus housing, of course, so to attend the same events or to spend a late night in Moore Library or the Bronc Diner shouldn’t really be that surprising, especially when many commuters are involved in the planning of events.
For example, the most recent MAACness was a success in part because of the members of ACS running some of the carnival games that night. The upcoming University Ball has commuter members on its planning board as well.
Yet, I digress. The point of this column is neither the representation nor the perception of commuters on campus, but the definition of a “commuter” itself. Working off the simplistic definition utilized by ACS of “someone who does not live on campus,” simply add a student and a fellow member of the Rider community to provide a decent working meaning of the term.

– Jess Scanlon
Junior journalism major

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