Every Wednesday and Friday morning at 8:30 a.m., Shankar Prasad, visiting lecturer in political science, boards his train at Pennsylvania Station in New York City. He works for three and a half hours as the train makes its way to Providence. Once he arrives, Prasad walks up College Hill in time to teach his 2 p.m. class, POLS1600: “Political Research Methods.”
Although Prasad is one of the few professors to make the trek from New York, many faculty members travel significant distances to teach at Brown. Like Prasad, some take the train to work. Others drive or carpool, and several keep houses or apartments in Providence.
Professor of Economics Glenn Loury lives an hour away in Brookline, Mass. with his wife and children. In order to cope with the commute, Loury has a house on Williams Street, and often stays Monday nights in Providence.
“I leave at 5 a.m., get in at 6. I drink my coffee, eat some breakfast, get here in time to make office hours,” he said.
Loury drives to Brown because he is not “the kind of person who could bear the train.” He said that even though he loses 45 minutes of reading time, he prefers driving because he doesn’t have to operate on the train’s schedule or deal with taking a cab from the train station.
The loss of time during the commute is one of the “biggest cons” for Kurt Teichert, environmental stewardship initiatives manager.
“On the days I travel to and from Brown, it’s two hours that I get to listen to music and get a few of my thoughts squared away, but that’s it. It’s relatively unproductive,” Teichert said.
Teichert also occasionally participates in a carpool with two other colleagues. He said that as a passenger, he has “some great productive time,” but that his long hours make it difficult to carpool often.
While Teichert lives about an hour away in Massachusetts with his family, he also keeps a room in Providence on Benefit Street for nights when he doesn’t make the drive home.
“When I first started I took the bus pretty regularly,” he said. “But that’s a back-up option because the cost is high and it’s pretty inconvenient.”
Prasad said he also avoids the bus.
“I’ve tried the bus, the train, driving,” he said. “The bus is actually quicker, but I find it’s dirtier and there is the variability of traffic.”
Prasad said traffic congestion also complicates driving, finding the train to be a “way better” option, although he said it is still “kind of a pain.”
“It takes 16 hours of my life every week,” he said. “There’s no internet on the train, which is painful.”
Associate Professor of Classics Joseph Pucci offered an alternate perspective. Pucci lives on Bowen Street, about a five-minute walk from campus. He said he thinks this proximity “affects every aspect” of his experience at Brown. “There are a lot of grumpy people who commute,” he said. “What a way to start the day or end it.”
Pucci likes living on College Hill because he doesn’t need to waste time commuting, can easily participate in extracurricular events, and likes “living in the community, not just during business hours, but being a full-time member of it.”
For some of these professors, the main reason many make the commute is to avoid displacing their families.
For Prasad — whose wife works at New York University — commuting provides a way to stay close to his family.
Loury’s wife works at Tufts University, and when he started at Brown, his sons were just beginning high school in Brookline. “When I talk about moving, (my wife) looks at me like ‘you must be crazy,’ ” he said.
Though Teichert “certainly would prefer to live in Providence all the time,” he said “the reality of family and property and community involvement don’t allow that.”
Professor of Economics Louis Putterman makes a 60-mile commute from his Massachusetts home, but chose not to live closer to his work because he has a handicapped child who requires care that is not available in Providence. Though Putterman said he does not mind the commute, he thinks “living in or near Providence is certainly better.”
Most professors agreed that a main negative of commuting to Brown is the difficulty in participating in activities outside of the classroom as well as experiencing what Providence has to offer.
Each professor experienced different inconveniences from commuting to Brown. For
Teichert it was missing out on weekend activities, while Prasad said he often misses lectures he would like to attend. Prasad also said commuting prevents him from going to the restaurants and theaters that he loves in Providence.
“I literally can’t do anything,” he said. “I’m in and out.”