Commuter assistant program aims to help off-campus students feel at home
Rutgers student organizations are working on programs to make commuters feel more connected to their campus.
The Off-Campus Student Association, with the support of the Rutgers University Student Assembly, is working toward implementing a new Commuter Assistant Program for the upcoming academic year.
Murtuza Hussain, a Mason Gross School of the Arts senior, is the OCSA initiatives chair and RUSA chief of staff, as well as the author of the Commuter Assistant initiative resolution.
“Fifty-seven percent of our student body is now a commuter or off-campus student, and it’s been increasing over the years," he said. “About 40.5 percent of them said they don’t feel connected on campus at all.”
Surveys show that students are feeling more disconnected to campus-life now than ever, according to the resolution.
On-campus students have resident assistants who help integrate them into Rutgers by helping answer questions and providing opportunities for engagement at Rutgers’ events, according to the resolution.
A commuter assistant would mentor first-year commuter students by providing tips and advice and by helping make connections with other resources and student organizations, according to the resolution.
“Ideally there would be about 20 CA’s and each CA would have about 20 students they can mentor. The CA’s would be in constant contact with them through email, GroupMe, Facebook, etc.,” Murtuza said.
The details are still being finalized, he said.
“What we’re proposing is that during orientation, or during emails, all freshman commuters coming to Rutgers would get an email saying, if you want a CA, you can sign up for one," he said.
The commuter system would help them acclimate into Rutgers and hopefully get them involved in more programs and events.
The program is modeled off of similar commuter programs from other universities such as New York University, Drexel University and Stony Brook University.
Surveys show a huge success rate of this program in other colleges where a majority of the commuter students say they benefited from their CA, according to the resolution.
The resolution passed through RUSA with unanimous consent, but the proposal still needs to be approved by the upper administration.
Many commuters express the disconnectedness they feel with campus life.
“I have a few friends that dorm and sometimes I see flyers in their dorm and I see flyers around the school every once in awhile but other than that it's hard for me to find out about events," said Lizbeth Cespedes, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student.
Neha Ashraf, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore said, she does not feel as connected as she would like to, but it has not changed during her two years of attending Rutgers. Facebook events are a way to help keep her connected to what is happening on campus.
Murtuza said he understands the difficulties of adjusting to school, especially as a commuter.
"I hope this program can help students feel more related and more connected on campus," he said. "That’s the ultimate goal ... I just want this to get approval because I know it’s going to help thousands of students in the future.”
Madhuri Bhupathiraju is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in cell biology and neuroscience. She is a correspondent for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @madhuri448 for more.