Commuter room popularity dwindles

Catherine Dawson, Staff Writer

Pitt-Johnstown housing office employees help extend a campus community welcome to all students, including commuters.

Pitt-Johnstown offers a Commuter in Residence program. Freshmen Area Coordinator Dominick DiLoreto said it’s a place where commuters are given a room on campus to do work, a locker to keep belongings, and a chance to interact with other residential students.

First-year residence halls with commuter rooms include Laurel, Oak and Maple. There are upperclassmen commuter rooms in Larkspur in the North Lodges, among others.

Laurel has six commuter rooms, Oak and Maple each have four and Larkspur has one room, said DiLoreto.

“During orientation and those kind of events, like academic planning days and placement testing, the office of Student Housing pitches (the Commuter in Residence program).

“(We let) students know that we have this free program if they want to participate in it. There is no cost to them whatsoever, so it’s not an inconvenience to them,” said DiLoreto.

The Commuter in Residence program is operated on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“Altogether we have 108 commuters as part of the program, and there are 73 between the first-year halls and 35 in upperclassmen communities,” said DiLoreto.

The first-year halls can hold 84 commuters all together. The upperclassmen lodge can only hold 39, so there is a decline in occupancy for commuters after freshmen year.

The first year hall commuter rooms are at 87 percent occupancy, and the upperclassmen commuter room is at 90 percent occupancy.

“As far as actually showing their interest, I think it’s a matter of whether they take advantage of it their first year.

“Since it’s free, if they don’t like it their first couple weeks it’s not like they have to opt out, they aren’t losing any money for holding it the whole year. They just don’t always take advantage of it,” said DiLoreto.

Junior Thomas Messer commutes 20 to 25 minutes from his home in Westmont to Pitt-Johnstown.

Freshmen year, Messer got a commuter room, and he said he was thoroughly unimpressed.

“First off, it’s about the fourth of a size of a normal room, plus all the other stuff they shove in it. Second, you share that with six other people. It’s really crammed,” Messer said.

Messer said he decided not to get a commuter room after his freshman year.

“I have seen that a lot of freshmen who get commuter rooms choose to not get them again,” Messer said.

Instead, Messer said he just keeps his belongings in his car, or he carries everything with him.

“I like that better because, even with the commuter room, the lockers don’t have locks on them,” said Messer.

Sophomore Abigail Moran, however, said she loved her commuter room freshman year.

“My freshman commuter room was absolutely perfect.

“The girls I shared that room with became my best friends. It gave commuters, who were usually pretty isolated, a way to meet and socialize in a really close setting. It made my college experience feel real,” Moran said.

Moran said that the freshman commuter rooms were private, relaxing and a good way to meet new people.

Moran signed up for a commuter room again after freshman year because of her great experience, but the result this time was not as great.

“Disappointed doesn’t even begin to cover it. It was overcrowded.

“It was definitely not somewhere I could go to relax or study. I hope UPJ changes this in the future. Upperclassmen commuters need commuter rooms similar to those that were offered to freshmen,” Moran said.

Sophomore commuter Abby Christner did not take advantage of the Commuter-i-n-Residence program her freshmen or sophomore years.

“I didn’t get a commuter room because I can just use the library and the lobbies of some buildings to do work in,” Christner said.

Christner said she keeps the things she needs in her book bag and other extra things in her car.

As a means of involving commuters in the collegiate experience even more, there is a Commuter Club.

“I heard about the Commuter Club freshman year, and I joined hoping I could meet other commuters,” Christner said.

Messer and Moran are not a part of the club.

“The Commuter Club doesn’t seem to be a very active club with a lot of stuff going on. They don’t seem to have a lot of activities and outreach stuff to commuters, and, if they do, it’s very poorly communicated,” Messer said.

Even though Messer is not a part of the Commuter Club he still is involved in other clubs.