Students often end up commuting to Mercyhurst if they live nearby the university, but this was a decision that most commuters made before the age of COVID-19.
Before the pandemic happened, commuters could sit anywhere on campus and had their own Commuter Lounge in the Student Union. A lot of gathering places, including this lounge, are no longer viable places to go because of social distancing policies. This has made finding space on campus harder for commuters, who in many ways have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
Mercyhurst has also implemented a guest and visitation policy which means that commuters cannot hang out in friends’ houses or stay the night.
While commuters now do not get to be inside the residence halls as guests, there are still resources available for them and places for them to sit, study or socialize. Commuter students may still eat in the dining halls, go to club meetings and attend campus events.
They can reserve spaces around campus to complete their classes, use designated refrigerators and microwaves, or store belongings.
“Many commuter and off-campus students have felt displaced because we had to close the Commuter Lounge,” Sam Beckas, Activities and Spirit coordinator, said. “The Campus Involvement Center has worked hard to turn the Student Union into a commuter-friendly space and continue to be an office that supports the commuter experience. The Student Union is equipped with study areas, a refrigerator, a microwave and lockers. A monthly newsletter, the Comm-YOU-ter Monthly, is sent out by me on the first day of every month and will always be filled with updates and important information about the commuter experience.”
Because many non-residential students may work or live a drive away, it is sometimes difficult to come back in the evening for clubs or events. Luckily, some RSCO meetings and other events are being held virtually so people can participate, even from home.
Just like all the other students, commuters are expected to protect their classmates, themselves and the university from the coronavirus. Because they leave the Mercyhurst “bubble” each day, there is often an extra responsibility for them. They are to wear their face mask at all times on campus, which poses an extra challenge for them in comparison to residential students, who can unmask in their own rooms or apartments.
Autumn Biebel is a junior Human Resources and Management major who is commuting this year.
“The uncertainty that everyone is feeling is definitely heightened for commuters,” Biebel said. “It’s a tough balance between being COVID cautious, knowing that we have to go back home to our families, while still wanting to participate in things on campus and still interact with our friends. There doesn’t really seem to be a ‘right’ thing to do.”
Commuters seeking extra resources during this difficult time are invited to get involved with the Commuter Student Association or contact advisor Sam Beckas.