By Tristan Leach
On Sept. 10, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) held a dessert reception for LGBTQIA+ students, staff and allies. The reception was meant to allow students to interact with their peers and meet staff who work specifically to help students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex queer, questioning and asexual.
Before speeches, students and staff mingled and talked, ate donuts, fresh baked cookies, blondies and cereal treat bars. Set on the tables were pronoun pins for students and staff to wear and take with them after the event. Students and staff alike were happy to take one and wear it proudly during and after the event.
Freshman acting major Madeleine Yu-Phelps said, “I use they/them pronouns and I am happy when people ask me. Before I knew, I felt awkward about it, because I didn’t know if I was she/her or he/him or any other combo. I recently figured it out. I always appreciated it, but now I love it.”
Among the many people who attended were CDI Executive Director Pamela Pruitt and CDI Assistant Director Ashley Archer. Both Pruitt and Archer gave speeches and welcomed all in attendance to the CDI.
The event also highlighted the Spectrum Pride Alliance, an LGBTQIA+ organization that aims to be another safe space on campus for LGBTQ students. Hundreds of students who signed up for the club attended the event.
Sophomore dance major Marissa Stellato said, “I guess it just makes me feel more comfortable being around people I can fully relate to. My high school GSA club was really bad, because no one ever showed up. It makes me feel prideful.”
As the event carried on, students filtered in and out. This being one of the many LGBTQIA+ events that will take place this school year, many students expressed interest in attending more.
Freshman contemporary theater practice major Maddie Sullivan said, “I’d go to a majority of [events]. I can’t stay long but I want to meet more people.”
Rider has a four out of five star rating on the Campus Pride Index for inclusion of LGBTQIA+ students.
Archer said, “Campus Pride is submitted once every year. There are certain areas that we look at: student affairs, public safety, student health. What I think is getting us there is that we are always, constantly thinking about what can we do? We get individual scores in each area and we say how can we improve next year? If we get a three out of five in an area, we say what can we do to get a four next year? We are constantly evolving, constantly wanting to understand what our students want.”
The CDI at Rider strives to include all students, faculty and staff.
Archer said, “I always think about intersectionality and recognizing who our people are. We create what I call a brave space, we engage in dialogue. It’s all about asking pronouns, getting away from binary language and just creating a space where folks feel comfortable. CDI is home.”
Tristan Leach is the treasurer for Spectrum and spoke at the dessert reception.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Madeleine Yu-Phelps’ name. Yu-Phelps was incorrectly identified as Madeline Yu-Phelps. The Rider News regrets this error.