Being a commuter in the pandemic

Anna Malesiewski, Asst. Editor

Even without all of the new restrictions that are in place as a result of COVID-19, it is more difficult for commuter students to make friends and be fully involved in the Gannon community than residential students. Add necessary but strict rules and regulations and it is nearly impossible for a commuter to be as involved as a resident.
I am a commuter student. When committing to come to school at Gannon and making the decision to commute, I hoped and expected that my college experience would not be significantly detracted from by living at home. And without the new coronavirus rules, it might not have been.
But now with the current pandemic, I feel very isolated from the rest of the Gannon community as a commuter student. I know I am not the only one who feels this way.
Some changes are significantly harder on commuters than they are on residents. For example, many quizzes and exams are being taken remotely now. But with my class schedule, I am unable to take advantage of the luxury of taking my assessments from home. Because I am a commuter I have to account for travel time to campus, and I have to come to campus to take my exam regardless. Some of my classes are composed of roughly half commuters. I am not alone in this issue.
Another change that is difficult is the inability to enter residence halls. Because of this, it is more difficult for commuters to spend time with friends who are residents outside of class time, or make as impactful connections and relationships.
It is difficult for me to understand the difference between socializing while maintaining social distancing and masked in a class or common area, versus socializing in a residence hall while also social distancing and staying masked, which is required of residence hall visitors.
Gannon-sponsored social events are fewer and far between now, which offers even less opportunity for socialization for commuters. A lot of commuters rely on these events to form bonds and make friends. And since commuters don’t have roommates or share a hall with other students, there are little to no opportunities to make friends, especially with social distancing required in classes. This has made transitioning to campus as a freshman commuter significantly more difficult than it would have been pre-pandemic.
While some may make the argument that commuters could theoretically be attending more or larger social gatherings than residents, the university would be naive to think that such social gatherings are not already happening on campus, whether it is against the rules or not. It is unreasonable to assume that all residents are following the rules, while commuters cannot. This is simply not the case.
There must be some way to improve the social scene for commuters. If expectations apply to commuters, then they must also apply to residents, and vice versa. It seems that there is a double standard between commuters and residents. Residents are not the only ones who should feel welcome in the “Gannon Family.”
This issue is so significant that it has caused me to contemplate spending money I don’t have and don’t want to spend to live on campus in the coming semesters.
I feel that I am struggling socially to such an extent that I am willing to spend thousands of dollars to make it better the only way I know how. And I know I am not the only one who has contemplated this. While the social experience of college is just as important as academics, commuters are left behind, and I don’t believe it has to be this way.
I urge the university to reevaluate its guidelines and discern whether they truly make sense. There must be a middle ground that makes the college experience the best it possibly can be given the current situation, for both commuters and residents alike.

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