Commuter Student Council Works to Aid NYU’s “Forgotten” Population

It’s 5 a.m. and sophomore Aagna Patel is starting her school day. Her keys, wallet, phone and backpack are all ready so she makes her way to the 7 train which she rides until she can transfer to the W train and get off at the 8 street station. Her first class starts at 8 a.m. on the New York University Washington Square campus.

“Being a commuter, starting early makes me feel like I have a whole day to get so much work done as opposed to starting in the afternoon or having late classes,” Patel said. “Commuting has its benefits; gives me time to catch up on reading, study for a quiz before a class, review material for midterms, for finals and it’s also the perfect hour to sort of stop thinking, clear my mind and de-stress.”

This experience is not unusual among commuters but for the most part it’s felt their particular needs aren’t held to the same importance as those who dorm. Yet commuters have a substantial impact on the college community: 54 percent of NYU students live off campus.

The commute is an important aspect to Patel’s college experience specifically because she is also among the 17 students running for office on the Commuter Student Council which works to recognize and address the particular needs of commuter students.

“I’m running for the Commuter Student Council for the VP of Advocacy and VP of Programming positions,” Patel said. “The lack of voice and feeling of being forgotten or not really feeling part of the NYU community that many commuters face, are the two biggest motivations for me to want to run. I feel that although we, commuters, make a huge impact on the NYU community and have a lot to offer, there is a lack of space for commuters both on the Brooklyn and Washington Square campus.”

The council has seen some tangible improvements for the state of commuters on campus with the addition of the Lipton Hall commuters den which brought the number of commuter lounges between the Washington Square and Brooklyn campus to three total.

But this isn’t enough space, especially since the lounges are open to everyone despite being called commuter lounges. Leading to actual commuters having issue finding a place to rest and study.

Besides space, commuters are in need of a campus which actually recognizes their unique situations. Carla Lopez, a junior in who is running for VP of marketing, sees this as the first step to improving how commuters are acquainted to NYU.

“I think NYU could do more for its commuters,” Lopez said.”They are doing better than they have in the past, with certain alert emails that pertain to commuters and stuff but in general, I think other student organizations need to recognize commuters as a legitimate audience. Often it’s assumed everyone lives like 10 minutes away from campus and can just drop by at late night club meetings and stuff. It’s not always possible.”

Lopez commutes from College Point, Queens which she clarifies is near Flushing since “a good amount of people don’t know” where it is. Her quickest commute happens when she catches a ride with her dad and then takes the train from the station near his job. Otherwise relying only on public transit it’d take about an hour and 15 minutes.

Outside of the demands of the campus itself, commuters are even more vulnerable to any price or service changes the MTA may enforce. For Abrar Rais, a freshman at the Tandon school who is running for VP of Advocacy at Tandon and VP of Programming, the price hike that occurred earlier this year.

“One thing I hate about my commute is having to pay the MTA $2.75 per ride or getting those expensive monthly unlimited ride cards despite how great they are,” Rais said.

Weekly passes increased a dollar while the monthly pass increased from $116.50 to $121, and the monthly unlimited is in Rais best interest since he goes between the Brooklyn and Washington Square campuses regularly.

But each council hopeful is confident the issues they’ve experienced — Lopez lamented about a time she spent three hours stuck on a train in Queens and couldn’t attend any of her classes while Patel mentioned a time when a professor cancelled an 8 a.m. class due to weather only 15 minutes before it, and she was already in the middle of making her commute — will be addressed.

Despite the roadblocks and added difficulty to being a commuter, none of them see it as a true detriment to their college experience.

“Honestly there are days where I wish I could dorm,” Lopez said, laughing a bit just as the words came out. “How easier it would be to just wake up and be able to be a short walk or train ride to anywhere on campus. I wouldn’t have to plan so far ahead. I would be able to work late nights easily without bothering anyone in my family. Perhaps be able to do team work on more of my assignments. But, I actually like commuting. It keeps me active and moving around; I don’t just stick to campus. Also the commute back home can be decompressing sometimes. It’s teaching me how to be more time efficient and how to follow a schedule.”

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