By Megan Shuman
College is a big change for our resident first-year students, getting used to living on their own, attempting to find a way to manage their not so copious amounts of free time and other general semi-adult responsibilities that are thrust upon them. In the process, the university becomes a home away from home. And it should, seeing as the price tag can ring up to more than the cost of their actual classes.
The root of all of this is the university’s rule that freshman either live on campus or at home. They then list all the exciting perks of living on campus. Those who decide to live at home then are only a side note. A quick mention of the commuter lounge and then they are onto the next on-campus benefit.
The main frustration is the university does not seem to understand that not all students live within Orono’s town lines. This makes event scheduling as well as commuting difficult at times, especially when there is a foot of snow and a 18 wheeler jack-knifed across the interstate…again. When one has to factor in an extended drive, the temptation of an event often loses it glamour. We tend to opt for extra sleep or a closer to home activity.
Although it doesn’t matter later within one’s academic career, living on campus seems so incredibly important that first year. When distance is taken into account, towns that are not Orono might as well be outside the Milky Way.
There are many times when the first question asked when meeting another first-year student is “which hall are you in?” When one states they are a commuter student, there seems to be a disconnect. This place of residence becomes too important. It can create barriers that are not meant to be placed. While this does not seem to matter later in one’s academic career, it can be detrimental during the first year.
Yes, living away from home is a mark of responsibility and maturity. Or at least it should be. But that does not condemn those unable to or those who do not wish to live on campus to be singled out or treated differently by their peers. The excuse, that ‘we didn’t want you to make the long drive’ does not solve anything. If anything, it makes it worse. Assumption seems to be the issue here. Involvement in campus life is still important to those who do not live within Orono.
It is not just the university’s responsibility to include commuter students in their activities, but also each and every student. The judgment that goes on is not justifiable especially when we claim we are a campus working towards equality. A goal that is shown each and every time the university calls on its students to support a cause to better our campus. Living off-campus, especially not in Orono, is not a sign of immaturity, weakness or financial strain. Instead it is often due to responsibilities and issues one does not even know about. Together, as a campus we need to work together to ensure that we can be a united campus, no matter where our students and faculty call home.