The morning is cold and dark, meanwhile the sun is barely up as the sound of alarms simultaneously go off all across New York, one, two, three times. Snooze. Snooze. Snooze.
The time is 7:30, and hitting the snooze button again doesn’t seem like the best idea. Class is at 9 am, but who knows what the traffic will be like, if your car will have any trouble, or if you will be able to find a parking spot. A flurry of commuters make their way down Stony Brook Road and turn into South P Lot — all scrambling to find parking as close to the bus stop as they possibly can. The students carry cups of coffee, and stand in lines that circle the Bus Hub, hoping to get a seat on the mile long bus ride that will bring them to Stony Brook Universities’ main campus. This is a commuter student’s daily morning routine.
Commuter students make up nearly half of Stony Brook’s student population, most of whom reside on Long Island. Log on to Stony Brook’s website and you will see an array of resources available to help those students that live close to campus. These resources include the information for the Suffolk County Transit System and The Long Island Ferry Service. If you are close enough, biking or walking is an option too. However, if a student lives outside of Long Island, finding a way to school becomes much more complicated.
At the beginning of this academic year, I experienced a housing crisis. The enrollment rate at SBU went up, and the university seemed to accept more students than on-campus housing had the room for. This affected many students, as incoming students found themselves forced in rooms only meant for two. I applied to Stony Brook as a residential student, fully intending to dorm. However, the only rooms that were available were triples, which led me to consider other housing options.
This problem affects students who come from outside of Long Island — the boroughs. As housing ran out of space, students ran out of luck. When I went on the housing portal, waitlists to get into housing had over 300 names. The options were limited; either make the commute from the city to Stony Brook every day, which can often take upwards of an hour and a half, or try to find a reasonably priced apartment and commute from Long Island.
In an attempt to find housing, commuter students turn to SBU’s housing section of their website, but on the website, one of the first things mentioned is Stony Brook disclaiming themselves, saying that they do not vet any of the listings. This means that if you were to run into trouble, even if you found the listing on Stony Brook’s site, the university is not responsible.
In an attempt to find housing over the summer, I looked up some of the complexes SBU had listed and found that one of the numbers mentioned, The Reserve at the Boulevard, isn’t even a housing complex, it is the number to a woman’s home. She had mentioned that this isn’t the first time someone had called inquiring about an apartment complex and that she had been dodging calls for a while. This was a clear indication that it is the students responsibility to make sure each housing contact is legitimate, which already sets a precedent for how little care is put into securing housing options for off-campus students.
Having the opportunity to live on campus allows students to be better members of their college community, and lets them find a home within their school quicker.
Matthew Rothbard, a senior geology major arrived on campus as a transfer commuter student. “If you don’t live in a dorm, where you are practically placed in a social situation that forces you to make friends, it feels like you don’t have a community,” he said.
When students have no choice but to commute because of limited housing, commuter students, like myself, often feel like they have to choose between two important facets of college life, either the educational one or the social one. Both come with benefits but having to choose one over the other does not really give commuter students a full college experience. SBU is a college where students are going “Far Beyond,” but how far can students actually go and feel a part of the community when housing options seem to be so confined.