On Monday, November 4, Linda Elliott, the Director of Commuter Services at Lesley, kicked off Commuter Appreciation Week, starting with a raffle, a commuter tip jar, and free coffee and hot cider in the MacKenzie Hall student center, as a part of a week-long series of events. “Sometimes life on any college campus is a little bit harder for a commuter than a residential student because you can’t just roll out of class or roll out of bed five minutes before class and make it to class,” Elliott said. “Our commuter students really need to plan, leave their houses very early to get here to beat traffic, to compete with the MBTA. We want them to know that their hard work doesn’t go unappreciated, that we know they put in the extra effort just to get here some days. We’re letting them know that we appreciate them– whether that’s through coffee, prizes, of events just for them. Just a way so that commuters know they are seen on campus.”
Many commuters participated in the raffle and a game where they would pull a rubber duck from water. The winning ducks revealed prizes such as water bottles, coffee travel mugs, or a bag. Students also wrote tips on Popsicle sticks, ways that new students could improve commuter life. “I think that we have gotten to realize what kind of things work for Commuter students and what kind of things don’t,” Elliott continued. “So, commuter students tend to be really busy, or they’re arriving on campus and rushing off to class, so that easy grab-and-go, grab a cup of coffee, or pull a duck out of a bucket, win a prize, are easy things that go a long way, you’re going take that coffee to class, you’re going to feel energized, you can win a prize and have a nice commuter water bottle. So maybe things that don’t take a lot of time for commuter students, but maybe have a larger impact.”
Helen Solano, a junior at Lesley agreed on the usefulness of the food pantry and the activities, but believed there needed to be more action about aiding students’ transportation. “I commute from East Boston,” she said, ” and it can be a pain in the neck. Depending on the time where I am heading to class. Lesley should decrease the prices of Charlie cards for students who are traveling outside of Cambridge.”
Linda responded to this concern with, “the price of commuting in any urban area can be expensive and because the MBTA raised its prices in July 2019, the cost of commuting just increased in the Boston area. However, in fall 2019 Lesley offered a 25% discount on semester MBTA passes to commuters who purchased through the office of Commuter Student Services. So Lesley is trying to make the campus more accessible to commuters. Find out more about this on Lesley.edu/passes.”
Kai Barry, a senior at Lesley, commented on the lack of commuter resources on the Brattle and U-Hall campuses. “I think Lesley alienates a lot of commuters from clubs because their meetings are always late at night. I also think they can offer more spaces for commuters to have access to food, not just on Doble,” he said. Kai had a good point, and several other commuter students agreed with this concern. The majority of commuter events and resources are held at the Student Center, leaving out many students who only are commuting to U-Hall or Brattle for the day.
I asked Linda if she believed commuter life has improved during her time here at Lesley, and she replied, “I started at Lesley in September of 2017, so before I started there wasn’t a Director of Commuter Services. I think that Lesley has made an effort to make things better for commuter students, having an office dedicated just for commuters, opening the commuter food pantry. I executed the ideas that were given to me when I started the role.” Although there was a commuter pantry before Linda, it wasn’t well known or well stocked. She also added the suggestion box for students to suggest certain foods to be added.
(I tried to contact the Dean’s office for answers as to why it took until 2017 to get a Director of Commuter Services and if any measures are being taken to include a pantry on the U-hall or Brattle campus; but nobody responded by press time.)
Overall Commuter services have greatly improved over the last couple of years here at Lesley. We are one of the very few schools in Boston that has a commuter pantry, one that is well-stocked and accessible. Like most things, the commuter services system is not perfect and doesn’t coincide with everyone’s schedules; and some students feel they can’t access Doble campus as easily to use the commuter pantry. Also, students like myself, who have to commute via Commuter Rail don’t get the 25% discount and are still burdened with an expensive transportation fee. On the other hand, having a Commuter Services office is a good idea. And since it didn’t really exist until 2017, I predict in the next few years, more changes will be made to help even more commuters.