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Colleges provide overnight space for commuters

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Between classes, she hangs out in the commuter lounge in the Alumni Memorial Union.

"I live in here," she said.,”Freshman Jennifer Szatkowski arrives at Marquette at 7:30 every morning after her 30-minute commute from Sussex, Wis., a town 20 miles northwest of Milwaukee.

Between classes, she hangs out in the commuter lounge in the Alumni Memorial Union.

"I live in here," she said. "Other people have dorms they hang out in. This is where we hang out."

Szatkowski, a freshman in the College of Health Sciences, said she usually stays on campus until 3:30 p.m., but a few days a week she has to stay until 9 p.m. because of club meetings.

She said it would be nice to have a place to stay overnight when she stays late.

A few universities are creating dorm-like rooms for commuters like Szatkowski to stay in overnight.

This summer, Mansfield University of Pennsylvania in Mansfield, Pa., converted an unused wing of a residence hall, Maple Manor, into 10 bedrooms for commuter students to use for free a few days a month, said Richard Fann, hall director at Maple Manor.

Building a space for commuters was a big issue at Mansfield because nearly 50 percent of the students are commuters, Fann said. Many hail from southern New York and have to drive in bad weather, he said.

"They wanted a solid place to say, 'This is my room,' " Fann said.

Each bedroom comes equipped with a bed, bath and television. The university also created a lounge that has a refrigerator with frozen dinners, a TV, newspapers and a coffeemaker, as well as a unisex bathroom with a shower, Fann said.

Mansfield commuters cannot stay more than 10 nights a month and must reserve a room by 8 p.m. of the night they stay, he said.

On an average, four rooms are used a week, but Fann said he expects full capacity as winter approaches.

"With the winter, the president will be using some of those rooms for people who travel to visit the campus who may be inebriated," Fann said.

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown has had a commuter rooming program for seven to eight years, said Mark Dougherty, associate director of housing and residence life at University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.

The five residence halls on campus all have one room on each floor designated for six commuters to share, Doughtery said. There are 85 spots for first-year commuters and 57 for upper-class students out of the 1,800-student population.

The students cannot sleep overnight, but can study, use the Internet and hang out there until midnight, he said.

Doughtery said the rooms help commuters feel connected to campus.

"Some feel like they really don't have a place where they can go to be by themselves for a bit," Doughtery said. "Here they have some ownership over some place."

Representatives from the Office of Student Development at Marquette have not looked into making an overnight space for students as most commuters live close by, said Corey Lansing, coordinator for campus activities and Greek Life.

Mary Sayles, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences, who commutes 12 miles from Greenfield, Wis., said it would be nice to have a space for commuters to sleep during exam week.

"This year I have an exam that ends at 10 p.m. and an exam that starts at 8 a.m. (the next day), so it would be a lot nicer to just stay here," Sayles said.

The university did, however, move the commuter lounge to a smaller room in the Alumni Memorial Union in October, where commuters have card access, he said.

"The decision was made to move because there's such a dire need for space on campus," Lansing said.

The lounge has a flat-screen TV, new computers, couches, a refrigerator and cabinet space, he said.

Alice Huber, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, who commutes from the east side of Milwaukee, said the new lounge has a social atmosphere that can be distracting.

"The old lounge was better set up to be both a social and study space. Here things seem a little more mixed up," Huber said.

Huber said she has met a lot of people in the commuter lounge and is there most of the day.

"It's kind of sad," Huber said. "I'm here all the time."

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