By Emily Klingman and Casey Gale
Since the introduction of the first group designated for gay or lesbian students emerged onto campus in the early 1990s, Rider’s support of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) community has seen substantial growth.
This semester, the Rider Allies Program has increased by 60 members.
Though only one faculty and one student training session was initially planned for the fall semester, a total of four were held to accommodate all of the new trainees. There is now at least one faculty or staff Ally member in each department at Rider.
“I think it’s great that the program is expanding,” said senior elementary education major Katie Freier. “It shows that the campus community is very supportive of all of its students.”
The program aims to create a network of faculty, staff and students who support the LGBTQ community. It also provides any needed support, information or resources. Members, who display the program’s logo, include English professor Dr. Nowell Marshall, director of Public Safety Vickie Weaver and a host of new students from the class of 2017.
The Allies Program’s meetings are three hours long and consist of informational sessions as well as some group exercises. The information provided at these sessions includes the community’s background, experiences with coming out and available resources, both on a regional and national scale. Other topics of discussion include what LGBTQ stands for and what it means to identify as a member of the community.
In each session, trainees are exposed to many different viewpoints.
“The current trainers are both gay and straight; the training is usually presented by a faculty or staff member and a student, so they get both perspectives,” said Mike Rutkowski, the faculty adviser of Rider Allies Program.
Patrick Callahan, Allies Program coordinator, emphasizes that the training sessions are not three-hour lectures.
“We do plenty of activities,” he said. “We get people moving and aware of their own possible heterosexual privileges through different exercises.”
Faculty, staff and graduate students participate in one session, while undergraduate students participate in a slightly different one.
“We thought some faculty and students would feel more comfortable talking about themselves without the other group being there,” Rutkowski said.
There is talk of a joint training session being held with faculty, staff and students. If scheduled, it will be announced ahead of time so members are aware.
To participate in a training session, graduate students, faculty and staff are not required to apply; only undergraduate students must apply. The application consists of 10 questions that provide the Allies Program with a sense of what the students are interested in and why they want to join.
“Basically, we want to know the students are comfortable with themselves and talking about these topics before we have someone who is possibly questioning their sexuality coming and talking to these people,” Callahan said.
Both Callahan and Rutkowski believe the training sessions and the Rider Allies Program have been effective.
“I’ve had feedback from students and allies that it was good to know they’re not alone,” Callahan said.
Next semester, the Allies Program plans to hold more training sessions in addition to new supplemental sessions, which will only be open to people who have gone through regular training. Anyone interested in participating in the Allies Program can contact Patrick Callahan at firstname.lastname@example.org.