By John Ochira – Vice President
As University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) enters the month of February and the weather worsens, commuter students become increasingly afraid of the possibility that a big storm may trap them on campus.
Since Sept. 2011, when Merrill Center filled the former commuter hostel with file cabinets containing sensitive student information, UMF has had no capacity to accommodate commuter students overnight (in the event of inclement weather or personal emergency). But not anymore; after a semester long search for a new space, the Student Life Office has designated a room in the dorm Purington Hall as the new commuter hostel.
“I’m very happy with the collaboration we got from Student life and Public Safety,” said Brady Burns, a commuter student and former president of the Commuter Council. “This was something we all knew needed to be done; it was just a matter of how soon it can be done.”
According to Grace Kendall, current president of the Commuter Council, the hostel is open to any UMF student who does not live in the resident halls, even those who live in apartments near the campus. “We don’t expect the students who live in nearby apartments to use the hostel, but they can,” Kendall said.
The hostel is not just open to commuters who are trapped on campus by a storm, or car trouble; sometimes a commuter may have a late study session and an early morning class. Instead of driving at night while tired, and having to wake up very early the next morning, a commuter may take advantage of the hostel and spend the night on campus. “It’s not safe to drive while tired,” said Kendall.
To access the hostel, a commuter student can go to the Student Life Office located in the Olsen Student Center or the Public Safety office located directly across from Stone Hall on McGuire Street. Public Safety has access to the Commuter Council office where bedding and other necessities can be found. “We have sleeping bags, sheets, towels, shampoo, toothpaste, etc.,” said Kendall, “and we will try to leave $2 on the table every day before closing the office.” That $2 is the access fee on the hostel, but evidently the commuter council has chosen to eliminate that hassle.
After the success in finding a new hostel, the Commuter Council has additional goals for the spring semester. “We’re working on a rideshare programs,” said Kendal. The Commuter Council sees a rideshare program as a way to take care of some of the parking problems facing UMF.
“In this economy, fewer people want to live on campus if they have the option of staying with their parents and commuting to school,” said Burns. A rideshare program may not be the ultimate solution, but it might help to alleviate the problem.
“There was a ridesharing program at UMF before, so we know that it can work, but eventually we’re going to need more parking spaces,” said Burns.
The Commuter Council is working with Deb Kalikow-Pluck in the Student Services Office to try to resurrect the rideshare programs.