Climate warm on ‘northern’ campus

By Angela Romansky

Westminster Choir College (WCC), according to its website, is “one of the world’s leading schools of music.” While the environment is competitive and the students are driven toward their music careers, rivalry takes place only in the classroom. According to many current and past students, the atmosphere is remarkably accepting.

Outside the classroom walls, the Westminster student body is a close-knit community, especially in terms of gender and sexuality.

“The Westminster campus houses a very large LGBTQ community,” sophomore music education major Sam Brukhman said. “While some people may avoid talking about their sexual orientation for a number of reasons, the majority of campus does not see homosexuality as a bad thing.”

Westminster’s Student Government Association president, Elizabeth Fildes points out that a significant number of both students and faculty are openly gay and are always respected.

“On our campus, we do not view sexual orientation any differently than race, gender, or any other defining trait,” she said.

A Westminster alumnus, James Howe,’11, agrees that Westminster is an accepting and open community. Howe worked as a resident advisor on both the Lawrenceville and Westminster campuses, and recalls a few differences between the two in terms of their LGBTQ communities.

“I felt that Rider’s GSA was about creating a community space for LGBTQ and people who cared about LGBTQ issues to meet, network and support one another,” Howe said. “Westminster’s size made it easier to find those people like you and find that support. There’s way more friendly joking about it at Westminster, but it’s also a more open community in that respect, and that was a nice thing to be part of.”

When asked about the LGBTQ climate at Westminster, Associate Dean of Students for WCC, Lawrence Johnson referred to the Rider Statement of Community Values, which reminds students that we “celebrate our differences for they are our strength.”

“The Westminster community encourages all students to develop and flourish,” he said. “Westminster Choir College, like all of Rider University, is an accepting and supportive community without regard to national origin, ethnicity, religious background, gender identity or sexual orientation. Students at Westminster are celebrated for who they are as individuals and the incredible musical gifts they possess.”

Alumnus and former class president, Derrick Goff, ’11, said there is no “LGBTQ community” at Westminster.

“The entire school is a unified community,” Goff said. “Gay people do not hang out with gay people because they’re gay. Gay and straight students alike discuss their personal lives with one another without a sense of divide.”

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