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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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According to a Commuter…: Judd Groden

Judd Groden is finishing up his last semester at Stony Brook before he graduates with a bachelor’s degree. Five days a week he drives from Huntington to Stony Brook for classes.

“It was the most feasible solution for me at the time,” he said. Spending $40 to $50 on gas, in additional to required college expenses is steep for a college student. “Gas is expensive. I use like one tank a week of gas,” Groden said.

Although being a commuter has perks, for many Stony Brook commuter students, the challenges overshadow the benefits. Leaving home hours before class to ensure arriving on time, battling traffic to get to campus, paying for gas or traveling on public transportation and finding parking in the overcrowded student parking areas are a few burdens that commuter students face daily.

Sophomore Philly Bubaris commutes from Nesconset, about five miles away from Stony Brook. The drive is roughly 15 minutes but Bubaris has to leave her house at least one hour early to ensure she gets to class on time. “In order to find parking I have to be on campus at least a half hour before my classes,” she said.

Stony Brook University offers three designated free parking areas on campus, South P Lot, North P Lot and Gym Road Commuter Lot. According to Catherine Rehman, director of Parking Services, “It wasn’t until these past two years I’ve really noticed students taking advantage of the free parking services on campus…we also offer permit parking in the stadium if students want to pay for closer parking.”

Pay parking areas on campus, such as the Stadium Lot, is a convenient option that some students are reluctant to use. The $150 additional fee for each academic school year and long waiting list is what deters them from signing up. “I’m not paying for parking; I pay enough in tuition so that’s out of the question and it’s not even a guarantee you’ll get a spot in there,” Bubaris explained.

There are roughly 22,000 students at Stony Brook University and almost half commute, Commuter Student Services senior advisor, Emily Resnick explained. In many cases, students commute either because they couldn’t secure housing on campus due to limited space and overcrowded dorms or commuting may be economically beneficial.

According to the Stony Brook campus residents website, housing on campus for undergraduates can be anywhere from $3,056 to $3,776 a semester and $353 to $1,152 monthly for graduates.  “Taking care of my kid isn’t cheap so I’ve got to work.” said Jessica Ramos, an undergraduate, 22, who commutes from Port Jefferson. “Living on campus is way too expensive for me and him so I’m living with my parents until I graduate.”

Commuters frequently find it challenging to develop a social life on campus because the time spent interacting with other students is limited mostly to the classrooms. On the other hand, residential students live, eat, study, and socialize together in dorms and at campus functions. Therefore they have more opportunities to make friends and become socially involved in the campus community.

Karolina Wojcicki, senior, commutes from Flushing, Queens twice a week to Stony Brook. She once lived on campus but ever since she moved, it’s been difficult to get involved.  All her time on campus is accounted for, leaving little to no room for recreational activities and a social life. “I used to live on campus and it was great because you know about everything going on,” she said. “Now I don’t really get involved.”

In addition, commuters are often faced with limited opportunities to meet with faculty and staff. The ability to go to after hour study groups or office hours is a simple advantage that residential students have. Commuters must make additional trips to campus or schedule individual meetings with faculty members. “That’s a big problem for me. I had a couple of tests already and I couldn’t make study sessions and it’s a lot harder to do things over the Internet.” Wojcicki said.

To help bridge the gap between students who commute and campus life, Stony Brook implemented a dedicated administrative office known as Commuter Student Services. During new student orientation, students are introduced to the programming, advocacy and research it provides for commuters, such as the monthly “Lunch and Learn” workshop series. It offers commuters a comfortable and friendly environment to learn about important topics such as time management and stress relief techniques, as noted on its website.

There’s also a student-run commuter group, Commuter Student Association, or CSA. “CSA is put together by students, run by students, have an executive board of students, has student members and no decisions are make unless the students members vote on them.” said Resnick, who doubles as Commuter Student Association’s Program Advisor and Commuter Student Services Senior Advisor.

Both the CSA and Commuter Student Services are beneficial in what services they provide. But one common complaint among commuters is that Stony Brook offers almost no direct financial assistance for commuter students. “We don’t have anything specifically through our office that can assist financially but we do serve as an advocate for commuter students to help them find answers to their questions that they want about financial assistance,” Resnick said.

Transportation issues are a large part of commuter concerns as well. The cost of gas and public transportation is consistently increasing. Once a month, the undergraduate student government provides round trip Long Island Rail Road , or LIRR, tickets to Penn Station and Jamaica for students who travel during off peak hours into the city. Full price   round trip tickets would cost from $12 to $22 but they are discounted half price for students. The tickets are available on a first come first serve basis and have a limitation of one ticket per student.  For the rest of the month students who travel by train are stuck paying for full price tickets.

Elyssa Infuna,  senior, commutes from Franklin Square. She takes the LIRR from the Mineola station five days a week. Infuna wished she lived closer because her total commute time is roughly two hours each way. “I used to drive but I started taking the train because it was more economical…a monthly ticket for me is $170.”

Commuters often find themselves adjusting their course schedules to attend classes in large blocks of time.  But with recent cuts in class sections due to budget cuts, even that has become difficult. Commuters at times end up having to take classes that are scattered throughout the day and waiting around campus in commuter lounges and in friends’ dorms until their next class begins.

“It sucks because on Mondays and Wednesdays I have class at 12:50 p.m. and at 5:20 p.m. so I end up staying on campus all that time… I live in Huntington, rush hour traffic is a mess coming to Stony Brook,” said Groden.

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