Weekday Warriors: A Look at the Affect of a Diminished On-Campus Population

Words by Collin Cunningham | Illustration by Mark Tabar

The Esplanade is the great pedestrian artery that cuts through Kent State’s  main campus, and it’s almost always crowded between classes. The Esplanade’s width is also what makes it obvious that campus is so barren on the weekends.

It’s impossible to deny the great difference between the number of people on Kent State’s campus on weekdays versus weekends. What’s less obvious, however, are the reasons why students leave Kent on the weekends and the effect that this migration has on campus.

This should be important to any student who attends Kent. Not only does the amount of people on campus affect the relationships one can form at Kent, it also has bearing on the ability of students to complete their work.

Richard Roldan, the current director of dining services for Kent State, says there are about 20,000 commuter students who attend Kent’s main campus. This accounts for more than half of the entire population of students who attend classes here with only about 7,000 students living in residence halls.

“Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are pretty heavy, and by Friday we start seeing a drop, probably a good 30 percent on Friday and all the way down to 50 percent of the volume on Saturday and Sunday,” Roldan says.

The reasons students go home on the weekends vary depending on the individual’s scenario.

Madison Newingham, a sophomore majoring in political science and history, has been commuting to Kent since her first semester. Her biggest reason for living off campus instead of in a residence hall is cost.

[Living on campus] is so expensive,” Newingham says. “With no scholarship, it’s $10,000 (per year), which is ridiculous because it’s a small room you share with a person. Most of them don’t even have their own bathrooms.”

Newingham lives in an apartment in Stow to cut down on personal costs. She says she’s seen apartments available in Kent for as much as $8,000 and as little as $3,000 per year.

A few other reasons for students not living in the residence halls include living conditions and rules. Some people prefer having their own bathroom and kitchen, while others like having the freedom to burn candles or incense in their residence.

“I think there’s more commuters than you’d think because campus is kind of dead on the weekends,” Newingham says. “I have no reason to come unless my friends want to hang out.”

Diane Platton, residence hall director for the Lake and Olson communities, encourages her resident assistants to extend unique opportunities to students.

“Sometimes some of our [resident assistants]  will do things like a spa night,” Platton says. “They’ll buy some face masks or something for students to come and partake in. They’ll do microwave cooking programs; they’ve taken residents to [sports] games with them.”

When she was an undergraduate student, Platton struggled with transitional issues and went home to visit her family and friends most weekends.

“Had I had that opportunity and … programming on the weekends, I probably would have stayed,” Platton says. “I think it was more that I was looking for something to do, and I didn’t know how to get involved or what there was out there.”

Katelyn Rossello, freshman majoring in studio arts echoed similar sentiments for going home from her residence hall during her first semester here. She started leaving every weekend for doctor’s appointments and then started feeling more comfortable at home.

“I just started hanging out with my home friends on the weekend and my college friends during the week,” Rossello says.

Living in the residence halls places students directly with other students, making it easier for freshmen to make friends. Newingham says she was initially worried that she would have trouble making friends without living on campus, but believes it was a good thing overall.

“I do feel like the friendships I made are more meaningful because a lot of people [on campus]are friends with each other out of convenience,” Newingham says.

Other students view Kent as a way to foster their friend groups.

“I actually think it benefitted me a lot because, after making friends at school, I introduced them to my friends at home so now, like, both lives are kind of blended together,” Rossello says.

Based on her time as a student, Platton believes that staying on campus is more conducive to academic success and social nurturing, but Rossello disagrees.

“I was able to focus more on my schoolwork when I’m alone at home versus in my room because I have lots of temptation to just hang out with my friends,” Rossello says.

Kent State’s on-campus population is easily cut in half with the number of people who go home on the weekends or live in off-campus apartments with no reason to return except for classes. This shift in student numbers reflects other aspects on campus, including dining.

On the weekends, Prentice Café, coffee shops in the academic buildings and Kent Market 2 in the Student Center are closed.

“We look at our counts, and we have the ability to show how many customers come through,” Roldan says. “That’s something we do daily to forecast how many customers we’re gonna anticipate during the day and during the week.”

Kent’s dining administration looks at these numbers to make snap decisions, such as switching the hours of Kent Market 2, which recently started closing earlier. For example, Roldan says during dinnertime the dining room connected to Kent Market 2 is utilized for students who want a space to gather. The dining options, however, were not.

This leads to an unnecessary food and resource waste. Roldan says dining traffic typically slows down between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Friday and resumes its steady pace on Sunday evening.

Different students are more comfortable living with various environments and lifestyles, each associated with distinct pros and cons, depending on the individual.

“It definitely is kind of inhibiting to a social life, especially if you’re not personable and vocal,” Newingham says.

Some students find that spending time at home or on campus makes them want to try other living situations in the future.

“I think I would have liked to be in Kent more because I feel like I missed out on a lot of school events,” Rossello says. “I have not attended anything at Kent, but I’m glad that I’ve made stronger friendships at home.”