By Kirsti Rainville
Awakening at the crack of dawn to fight traffic and the hordes of sleep-deprived zombies at Wawa all before making it to campus is not an experience most Rider residents need to contend with. But for senior marketing major and commuter Zak Pflieger, waking up before 5 a.m., and clocking in at the Student Recreation Center (SRC) by 6 a.m., has become a way of life.
While commuters lead a different lifestyle, Rider tries to make the college experience essentially the same for all of its students.
“As a commuter, I expected to spend much of my day in my car,” Pflieger said “I just didn’t realize how much time I was going to spend in my car. I don’t mind really, but it gets to be exhausting and expensive after a while.”
While many students at Rider commute, those who don’t can fail to consider all of the particularities involved in the process. Although the cost of room and board is not something a commuter needs to worry about, there are other expenses that often go without thought.
“One of my biggest expenses is gas, then food, and I also have bills [for] credit cards, utilities, rent, cell phone — everything like that,” Pflieger said.
However, Pflieger has not been commuting his entire time at Rider. He started off as a freshman living in Conover Hall before moving to Olson Hall and eventually becoming a resident advisor. After being denied premium housing, Pflieger and his friends decided to move off campus and live independently for their senior year.
Though some students like Pflieger opt to live off campus, Rider still tries to offer them on-campus opportunities. One of the most important options for involvement fot commuters is the Association of Commuting Students (ACS).
“ACS is a branch of student government designed to help the commuters on campus find their place,” said ACS President, junior accounting major Michael Lombardo in an email. “Our main goal is to get commuting students involved on campus and do everything possible to make sure that they are aware of all the services and activities that Rider has to offer.”
Lombardo also mentioned that ACS hosts various events throughout the year, such as a coffee house event once a month, to build the group’s reputation as a branch of student government and also to achieve its goal of student integration.
Lombardo said he was driven to become involved with ACS when he was a commuting freshman. He said the organization helped him make friends and feel more at home on campus and he hopes to help other commuters feel this way with his position as president.
Another service Rider provides for students is the commuter lounge, which is located in the Bart Luedeke Center and is intended for commuters to use as a place to relax between classes.
Even with these amenities, some people believe that Rider could do more to include its commuting population.
“I think Rider could cater to commuters more with class scheduling,” said Lindsay Tamuzza, a freshman education major who commutes. “There are so many classes at night and early in the morning, which makes it hard to get a schedule that lets me get home at a decent hour.”
Commuters are given many of the same opportunities as residents — with the exception of swiping into dorms — such as access to meal plans, Bronc Bucks and the gym in the SRC.
Commuters can also become a part of any academic club, student-run organization or section of Greek Life. While the option may be there, in practice there are inherent challenges.
“Most clubs are late at night, so I feel I can’t get involved,” Tamuzza said.
Overall, Pflieger feels there are positives and negatives to both living situation. He said he enjoyed being involved on campus and living the dorm room lifestyle, but now at age 22 and graduating in a few short weeks, he reflects that his decision to commute was a satisfying one.
Additional reporting by Megan Pendagast