All for One or One for All?: Cultural differences = divide between campuses

by Jess Scanlon

Take a left out of the main entrance, follow the road straight until it becomes Nassau Street and make a left onto Chestnut Street, which becomes Walnut Lane, where you will find the other half of Rider.

Despite the fact that administrators and both Student Government Associations have worked to bridge the gap between Rider’s two campuses, many students do not feel that much unity exists.

This approximately eight-mile journey is the physical space between the Lawrenceville and Westminster campuses of Rider University. However, the distance between the two campuses seems to some to be much further.

Communication between the two branches of Rider has increased in recent years, but not to the level that many students and university officials would like, leading many to believe that there is a rift existing between them.

“I think a lot of it is a misunderstanding,” said Jaclyn Beardsley, a senior music education major on the Princeton campus who is about to take her first class in Lawrenceville next semester. “I think a lot of the bitterness from Westminster is because we don’t feel like we’re as much a part of Rider as we should be. We don’t really feel like we are wanted because we’re those ‘weird people at Westminster.’ People that don’t know anyone from Westminster think that we’re stuck up and I feel we can break that barrier.”

Lawrenceville students feel similarly about the lack of understanding among students.

“I think it’s because we’re not on the same campus, so we don’t consider them a part of us,” said Panco Kasapinov, a senior with a double major in management and leadership and human resource management. “Personally, I don’t know where Westminster is, and I don’t have to go there so it doesn’t really matter to me. When I think of Rider, I think of it as a business school. Also, Westminster has its own name, which makes it seem like it’s its own school.”

Amanda Arena, a senior Spanish and communication major, agreed.

“It seems at times as if the schools are a forced marriage and no one cares that Westminster kept their maiden name,” said Arena. “Luckily, the schools are taking some measures to bridge the gap. I am not saying that this can’t change. I just think we need some couples counseling.”

This gap seems understandable. Until 1992, the two schools were separate. With the merger of Westminster Choir College and Rider College, the two were unified as one institution. The decades spent apart led to separate schedules and programs on each campus, making intercampus communication a challenge, especially for the two branches of the Student Government Association (SGA).

“We do things differently,” said Scott Phillips, Lawrenceville SGA vice president.

Phillips ticked off the differences, such as schedules, majors offered on each campus, housing options and many other factors as evidenced in The Source, the Spring 2011 Course Selection Catalog and other university publications.

Dean of Students Anthony Campbell described a more broad difference.

“It’s a lack of understanding,” he said. “It’s different cultures. You know, they’re very professionally focused on their campus, where [Lawrenceville is] more generalized.”

The institution that would become Westminster was founded as a choir in Dayton, Ohio. Originally called the Westminster Choir School after its 1926 founding, it moved to Ithaca, N.Y., in 1929. In 1934, the group once again moved to Princeton, where the Westminster campus stands to this day.

Rider would also relocate throughout its history, though on a much more local scale. The Lawrenceville campus did not open until 1964, when the entire college was relocated from Trenton. The evolution of the college is reflected in the original name of the school, Trenton Business College — which it was christened upon its 1865 founding. In the years that followed, the school would be renamed many more times until it finally became Rider University in 1994.

Phillips said SGA representatives from both campuses have been trying to create a dialogue, which has thus far been a three-year process. Last year the student government got together in an attempt to increase cross-campus programming and other opportunities for the two groups of students to interact.

“Our student governments

Take a left out of the main entrance, follow the road straight until it becomes Nassau Street and make a left onto Chestnut Street, which becomes Walnut Lane, where you will find the other half of Rider.

This approximately eight-mile journey is the physical space between the Lawrenceville and Westminster campuses of Rider University. However, the distance between the two campuses seems to some to be much further.

Communication between the two branches of Rider has increased in recent years, but not to the level that many students and university officials would like, leading many to believe that there is a rift existing between them.

“I think a lot of it is a misunderstanding,” said Jaclyn Beardsley, a senior music education major on the Princeton campus who is about to take her first class in Lawrenceville next semester. “I think a lot of the bitterness from Westminster is because we don’t feel like we’re as much a part of Rider as we should be. We don’t really feel like we are wanted because we’re those ‘weird people at Westminster.’ People that don’t know anyone from Westminster think that we’re stuck up and I feel we can break that barrier.”

Lawrenceville students feel similarly about the lack of understanding among students.

“I think it’s because we’re not on the same campus, so we don’t consider them a part of us,” said Panco Kasapinov, a senior with a double major in management and leadership and human resource management. “Personally, I don’t know where Westminster is, and I don’t have to go there so it doesn’t really matter to me. When I think of Rider, I think of it as a business school. Also, Westminster has its own name, which makes it seem like it’s its own school.”

Amanda Arena, a senior Spanish and communication major, agreed.

“It seems at times as if the schools are a forced marriage and no one cares that Westminster kept their maiden name,” said Arena. “Luckily, the schools are taking some measures to bridge the gap. I am not saying that this can’t change. I just think we need some couples counseling.”

This gap seems understandable. Until 1992, the two schools were separate. With the merger of Westminster Choir College and Rider College, the two were unified as one institution. The decades spent apart led to separate schedules and programs on each campus, making intercampus communication a challenge, especially for the two branches of the Student Government Association (SGA).

“We do things differently,” said Scott Phillips, Lawrenceville SGA vice president.

Phillips ticked off the differences, such as schedules, majors offered on each campus, housing options and many other factors as evidenced in The Source, the Spring 2011 Course Selection Catalog and other university publications.

Dean of Students Anthony Campbell described a more broad difference.

“It’s a lack of understanding,” he said. “It’s different cultures. You know, they’re very professionally focused on their campus, where [Lawrenceville is] more generalized.”

The institution that would become Westminster was founded as a choir in Dayton, Ohio. Originally called the Westminster Choir School after its 1926 founding, it moved to Ithaca, N.Y., in 1929. In 1934, the group once again moved to Princeton, where the Westminster campus stands to this day.

Rider would also relocate throughout its history, though on a much more local scale. The Lawrenceville campus did not open until 1964, when the entire college was relocated from Trenton. The evolution of the college is reflected in the original name of the school, Trenton Business College — which it was christened upon its 1865 founding. In the years that followed, the school would be renamed many more times until it finally became Rider University in 1994.

Phillips said SGA representatives from both campuses have been trying to create a dialogue, which has thus far been a three-year process. Last year the student government got together in an attempt to increase cross-campus programming and other opportunities for the two groups of students to interact.

“Our student governments run parallel,” said Anthony Baron, Westminster SGA president. “[The alliance] creates avenues for communication.”

The student government’s attempted integration of the two campuses is simple. Despite the differences between them, they are both Rider campuses, and are a part of the same university, as listed on both the school’s websites and in The Source.

Joel Phillips, professor of music theory and composition at Westminster and chair of the University Academic Policy Committee, shared his perspective on the integration of the two campuses from its ongoing state of separation — functioning as two institutions to a single one.

“Slowly but surely the campuses have integrated many aspects of their life and culture,” Phillips said. “That said, the two campuses will always have unique qualities and will continue to excel in different areas. These differences should continue to be celebrated.”

One goal to unify the campuses is to create a constitution that would bring together both branches of SGA by creating an intercampus committee that would consist of members of the two executive boards that would meet a few times per semester.

Outside of SGA, there have been other sources of contact between students from both campuses. The SEC-sponsored Jason Derülo concert on the Lawrenceville campus in October attracted Westminster students too. Phillips and Brian Guzman, the Lawrenceville SGA president, and other Lawrenceville students attended Westminster’s Homecoming Dance in September. The service organization Circle K has also hosted events on both campuses.

In the academic arena, the Baccalaureate Honors Program (BHP) has members on both campuses and students enrolled in the program can take honors classes on either campus.

For example, junior Christopher Homoky, a chemistry major took a BHP course at Westminster.

“The [Westminster] campus felt more city-like,” he said.

He said that Westminster was less isolated than Lawrenceville because it is off Nassau Street in Princeton, a busier area than the stretch of Route 206 where the Lawrenceville campus is located.

Students can take courses on either campus, but the practice is not common. Baron attributes it to the expansion of courses and programs offered on both campuses, making it easier to take the required courses on one campus.

Most students elect to remain on one campus because of factors such as traffic and convenience.

For example, when senior Amy Kaufman switched her major from vocal performance to English halfway through her freshman year, she chose to take the remainder of her classes on the Lawrenceville campus because she did not want to have to commute to Westminster.

“The transition was easy,” Kaufman said. “Getting between the two campuses was hard.”

“I feel that it’s good to take classes on one campus,” added Kaufman. “The separation is an unfortunate side effect for the two campuses.”

Kaufman said that the shuttle service between Princeton and Lawrenceville has improved significantly in the past few years, making it easier for students to go between the campuses if they decide to do so. The shuttle makes rounds between them every hour from early afternoon through evening on weekdays, including a few extra stops to nearby attractions on Saturdays.

Combining orientations has helped to increase communication between campuses, Campbell said.

“We now do freshman orientation where we all start together,” he said. “People started making friends and doing things together [on the Lawrenceville campus], and so there’s more interaction between the students now.”

SGA plans to further integrate the two campuses through activities outside the classroom and extracurricular activities after class and on the weekends. This is reflected in the creation of the Westminster Relations chair, a member of the Lawrenceville President’s Cabinet who attends some Westminster Senate meetings and plans events to foster community, according to an amendment passed by the Lawrenceville Senate during the 2009-2010 school year. The current chair is senior Kim Doerhoffer.

Guzman said the chair’s work will include organizing a Bronc Buffet that will be held on the Westminster campus in the spring semester and getting members of the Westminster campus more  involved in Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society fundraiser to be held for the third year on Lawrenceville campus.

“It is now possible for a Westminster student to be on the equestrian team and a Lawrenceville student to sing on the stage of Carnegie Hall,” said Scott Phillips. “These are great opportunities that were previously impossible.”

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1 thought on “All for One or One for All?: Cultural differences = divide between campuses”

  1. Thank you for composing this article the reflects what the students are saying on both sides. While I respect the incredible increase in integration between the two campuses it is important to mention that the frustration and anger associated with the two campuses is not related simply to traffic or convenience. Westminster students are continuously striving to improve the relationship with the administration at the Lawrenceville Campus. However, I believe that much of the problem stems from a lack of communication from the administrations which results in confusion in the students. The Westminster Campus is (in a word) falling apart. The relocatables are literally sinking into the ground. The cottages have walls so paper thin you cannot be in there in the wintertime without a coat and scarf on. The practice rooms are located in a area that is not really conducive to private study due to the loud acoustic in the hallway and the constant presence of someone waxing the floor. Students are often practicing in classrooms next to rooms where lectures are taking place because there is no where else to go. There are considerably more cars with parking permits than there are parking spaces and students are constantly being ticketed for parking in visitor’s spots and on the grass because there is no room in the parking lot or on the streets where parking is allowed. When a Westminster student makes his/her way to the Lawrenceville campus and witnesses the construction of new dormitories, performance spaces, and academic buildings it can be a bit disheartening. There is a lack of balance between the school’s ability to provide equally for both campus’ students and the administration’s insistence that students embrace the “two campuses, one university” ideal. I think that a more complete merger of the two campuses is necessary to create this needed balance, instead of the slow pace of progress that is being made now. Students at both campuses work very hard and are incredibly dedicated to their respective education. It comes down to this: change is going to happen and people aren’t going to like it. There will be a lot less animosity if the administration is able to say “things are changing but it means you’re getting a….(parking lot, performance space, fall break, handicapped accessible bathrooms, heating, air conditioning, tuned pianos, real classrooms, a 24 hour computer lab, etc)”. Like I said before, driving into the Lawrenceville campus and seeing a brand new dormitory after coming from Westminster, where students are living in buildings that are falling apart adds more than a significant amount of anger to how I feel about the Rider/Westminster relationship. I want to be able to say that I am proud of my alma mater for helping to make me reach my potential as an artist. No one who is a student of Westminster isn’t proud of that. That pride can easily be extended to the entire Rider community if there is more effort made to show that the administration truly cares about making Westminster a part of that community.