The university opened a new commuter lounge for students in Centennial Hall this fall. Administrators say the lounge was added because of rising concerns regarding commuter students and spaces for them on campus.
In general, commuter students say they appreciate this as a step in the right direction. Though some also offer suggestions for how the university can continue making improvements and creating a distinct space to welcome off-campus students.
The new commuter lounge is at the end of first floor in Centennial Hall and is filled with computers, lockers, tables, chairs, a microwave and a new Keurig coffee brewer. Commuter students have already taken advantage of the lockers, which are free and large enough to hold a backpack and other accessories.
Sophomore broadcast and journalism major Dakota Fredette said he heard about the lounge at the start of the year, though he didn’t know its specific location. As others have become aware of and started using the lounge, Fredette said it’s become a popular space.
“I’m glad there’s a place for us that is meant for just us,” said Fredette. “My favorite part is the Keurig. I love coffee, and now I don’t have to carry cold McDonald’s coffee to class.”
In terms of potential improvements, Fredette has a suggestion.
“The only problem I see is the lack of tables,” he said. “There’s a bunch of chairs but not really any desk space to sit down and do classwork.”
Another commuter student Theran Caroll, a senior business administration major, isn’t as excited about the new lounge.
“The commuter lounge is something more than we had, but still isn’t pin-pointed enough,” he said.
Caroll said he hopes university administrators will explore ways of creating spaces reserved specifically for commuters.
On-campus students have noticed the new lounge and its accessories as well.
“It’s a cool addition for the commuters,” said Tyler Avila, a sophomore broadcast and journalism major.
Faculty members are also taking advantage of the space. Once a month, from 9:30 to 11 a.m. on Fridays, faculty and staff gather in the commuter lounge for coffee and conversation.
This is not the university’s first attempt at a welcoming space for commuters. The university had a café in the same spot as the new lounge, and it sold things like muffins, coffee and sandwiches among other things. However, due to budget cuts this café lounge was closed in 2012. Campus officials say this café was unsustainable.
Many commuter students are taking advantage of free meals in Marbeck as well. Every other Friday, Dean of Students Julie DeGraw leaves her ID at the swipe-in area and uses her swipes for commuter students to eat free in an effort to build community for students who don’t live on campus.
Student Senate has also played a large role in the new addition. From ordering the microwave to putting together the lockers, Student Senate has shown its commitment to the commuters here at Bluffton.
DeGraw invites students to attend the free meals and also asks that students email Student Senate Representative Liz Weaver with ideas for the lounge. DeGraw said students may also email her with any concerns or suggestions.