The All-Campus Commuter Board: Building a commuter community

    While it’s not necessarily a flawless plan, the A.S. Council’s recent approval of a charter to form an All-Campus Commuter Board, an organization that will unify the current individual college commuter councils, is a step in the right direction for UCSD’s commuter students.

    Shawn No
    Guardian

    Although theoretically the A.S. Council and other student organizations are intended to serve all students equally, many on-campus organizations show a definite (albeit unintentional) bias against non-resident students. Once a student moves off campus (which, presumably, save for RAs and Regents Scholars, is the case for all UCSD students once the first two years of guaranteed housing have passed), he is suddenly forced to confront a different set of issues and needs than those of a resident student.

    Currently, most meetings are held on various locations on campus, for example, inconveniencing off-campus students; many activities are dorm-related. There are ³Muir Resident Councils² and the like, but fewer such organizations for commuter students.

    Under such a system, in which commuter students do not receive benefits equal to those of resident students, it is unfair to expect that non-resident students pay the same fees to Associated Students. With over half of UCSD’s enrollment coming from commuter students, it is critical that there be a venue for these needs to be addressed. Creating a commuter-specific board, therefore, allows non-residents a chance to take advantage of experiences previously only available to resident students.

    The new board is a decided improvement over the former organization, under which each college’s commuter councils carried little lobbying power compared to larger on-campus organizations. The new, conglomerated board will give commuters a stronger voice simply because of its size and representation.

    With the A.S. Council’s new board, the unified front should be more effective in advocating the basic needs of commuter students. Furthermore, the All-Campus Commuter Board can plan activities and programs geared specifically toward commuter students ‹ for example, programs that don’t necessarily meet on campus, or perhaps programs with modified hours to allow students appropriate travel time. A committee made up of students who face and thereby understand such issues is more likely to make the necessary actions than a board with resident-related concerns and interests.

    Parking, for instance, is an ongoing issue that plagues the commuter student. Not only does the cost of a permit border on the obscene, but the lack of availability of parking spaces can force students to circle too-full lots repeatedly in vain attempts to find an empty space, often missing parts of classes or meetings. And while such an issue may seem trivial to a legislative committee composed primarily of residents, it is certainly key for a student who relies on parking in order to attend classes.

    And simply by virtue of not living on campus, students who commute can struggle to feel a connection both to an individual college and to UCSD as a whole, as most college activities are geared toward students who don’t have to worry about driving home.

    Many commuter students, particularly the transfer or freshman students who have never had the UCSD residency experience, may find it difficult to develop a sense of identity and belonging to the campus, as many relationships are those made with dormmates.

    According to A.S. President Jeremy Paul Gallagher, the absence of a ³network of friends² experienced by students not living in the dorms and the lack of political representation for commuter students were strong factors in the A.S. Council’s move to create the new All-Campus Commuter Board. Gallagher hopes that the new board will help remedy these issues.

    Under the previous organization, not all colleges had their own commuter boards, a factor which limited any positive impact on commuter students campus-wide.

    Furthermore, the formation of a new council created specifically for commuters will give commuter students an opportunity to belong and contribute to a campus organization with which they can identify, thus allowing them a chance to feel connected to UCSD.

    Of course, there’s still room for improvement. The question of funding, for example, may be a touchy one, as an appointed, rather than elected, group will be making monetary decisions.

    However, University Centers Advisory Board ‹ an unelected body, with members appointed by the various college councils ‹ is charged with oversight of the University Centers annual budget, which is twice that of the A.S. Council. UCAB allocates meeting space in the University Centers, and oversees the contracts of the Price Center food establishments. Any outcry against the commuter board would have to be matched with equally strong opposition to UCAB. UCAB has worked for years, so there is no reason to believe that the commuter board, simply by virtue of it being unelected, would be any different.

    With the A.S. Council already being composed primarily of commuters, there will be a fine line between equally and overly representing commuter students. However, the council, like all elected bodies, tends to play to the constituents it hears. On-campus residents are the ones to whom the council meetings are most easily accessible, and therefore their voices are most likely to be heard. Off-campus residents cannot always be bothered to come back to campus for something as mundane as a council meeting, and therefore a dedicated commuter-interest body is needed to represent them.

    Overall, though, the creation of the All-Campus Commuter Board was an important step in creating a deeper sense of community among UCSD students, both those living on campus and off.

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