CSA: Don’t Whine For Me


(Kara Jagdeo/The Observer)


The Commuter Student Association (CSA) recently published a manifesto of challenges that commuters experience in hopes that professors will more fully acknowledge and assuage such hardships. 

(Kara Jagdeo/The Observer)
(Kara Jagdeo/The Observer)

“10 Things Commuter Students Would Like Professors to Know About Us” includes points like “Please organize group projects in advance of the due date,” “We still have family obligations to attend to,” and “We hate being late for class.” The final point states “Commuters do not want to be treated any differently than residents.”

After a lengthy list of laments and complaints, requesting to be treated the same seems counterintuitive. Complaining of hardships but then demanding equal treatment highlights the fundamental flaws and weaknesses of the entire CSA and its flimsy purpose.

The CSA, an organization founded to assist commuter students in navigating through Fordham and coping with the academic and social setbacks of being a commuter, is an embarrassingly juvenile bureaucratic branch of student government. It is run with the presumption that commuters, by default, are unable to form meaningful friendships or succeed as well as residents, two assumptions that are both debilitating and untrue.

Many commuters travel within the boroughs, and, having taken public transportation in high school for four years, are more than familiar with the machinery of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). For Metro North, New Jersey (NJ) Transit, Long Island Railroad (LIRR) and other transportation patrons, similar comfort and understanding of each system is an easily learned virtue.

It is not inherently difficult for commuters to attend Fordham, and the noted challenges of college (time management, balancing academic and social life, having a job) are not exclusive to commuting students. However, the bedrock of CSA is rooted on such claims of disadvantage.

Distilling these myths allows us to truthfully discern and deconstruct what CSA actually is: A friendship welfare program, a bureaucratic safety-net spun out of no real need or value, and, above all, a waste of money.

Detractors will argue that CSA is a club, and so it is entitled to its own objectives and activities. It is my understanding that a school club connects students who share similar lifestyles, interests or passions. Is traveling to and from college an actual source of connection? In that sense, should we also have clubs for people who brush their teeth, own a cell phone or eat breakfast?

Commuting is a trivial thread of connection, especially in New York City. Unlike the Yoga Club, Black Student’s Alliance, or Mock Trial, CSA has no objectives or shared passion between its members besides lamenting their woes and spending money on food.

The Commuter Freshman Mentor (CFM) Program, the missionaries of CSA, makes me question whether I attend college or middle school. My CFM often messages me offering her help and guidance. I am horrified at the questions she might receive and answer: “How do I check out a library book?”, “Where are the bathrooms?”, “What is a subway?”, just to imagine a few. The whole concept of the mentoring program seems antithetical to the reality of a college experience: a time for independence and higher educational pursuits.

What is more alarming than the rickety foundation of CSA is its breadth of representation. Although I am not a member of CSA, the club speaks for me and all other commuter students as if our experiences are dogmatically similar. Sure, I have been stuck on trains and late for class a few times, but these anomalies don’t require an excuse or a committee. This recent publication is an embarrassment to people like myself, who deal with the side effects of commuting and don’t need Fordham’s commuter apparatus to dry my tears with.

I am not denying the efficacy of the system, nor the organization and fervor of its leadership. I am only suggesting that this association downplay its complaining, clarify who it speaks for and focus on legislating actual policies commuter students may benefit from, like discounted traveling stipends or greater access to work study programs.

Choosing to commute is a conscious decision, a choice inspired predominantly by the financial upsides of a lower tuition bill. I chose to commute to Fordham because I would be $50,000 less in debt by staying at home in Brooklyn. The difficulties of commuting are noted, and are occasionally bothersome, but whining about a self-made choice has absolutely no grounding.

Professors: I have an 11th point I’d like to tack onto the list: Not all commuters experience and share these qualms.

CSA: Please don’t whine for me. I can very well manage on my own.