Poll finds acceptance, room for improvement
By Corinne Anderson
LGBTQ individuals feel comfortable at Rider and both campuses are generally accepting of them, according to a survey conducted by The Rider News.
Of those who identified themselves as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) individuals in the anonymous survey, 83 percent rated their comfort level on campus as 7 or higher on a 10-point scale.
But while these students generally feel comfortable themselves on campus, not as many are sure that straight students would express the same comfort level toward them.
“I’m bisexual and I’m completely comfortable with other LGBTQ individuals,” said one anonymous student on the Lawrenceville campus. “However, I am not too comfortable all the time on campus. I often feel that people stare and judge me but I don’t let it bother me too much.”
Three-quarters of all students responding, including heterosexuals, felt that their peers were accepting toward the LGBTQ community on campus.
“From my experience on this campus, I have NEVER seen someone be rude or derogatory towards homosexuals, lesbians or people who support them,” said one straight student on the Lawrenceville campus. “And I think that is all that matters in the end.”
At Westminster Choir College (WCC), even more students of the LGBTQ community feel welcome and accepted.
“A large part of the population is LGBTQ and it is not considered an issue by anyone on campus,” said one LGBTQ participant from the Westminster campus. “I have [roomed] with both a bisexual and a transgendered person (two different people) who were open about their lifestyles, and it didn’t cause an issue.”
However, some WCC students do not feel as welcome when visiting the Lawrenceville campus.
“I feel very uncomfortable with the heterosexual community on the Lawrenceville campus because I feel they are close-minded and insensitive,” one student participant wrote. “We are told as a university we are one entity. However, the reality is we are and forever will be two separate schools with very different ideals, goals and lifestyles.”
Another WCC student echoed this sentiment: “I am slightly cautious about being openly gay on campus because I know some people aren’t as ‘friendly’ about it as others.”
According to results from the survey, over 82 percent of the students said they hear people use the words, “fag” “faggot” and “gay” in derogatory or joking manners.
“I definitely have heard words like ‘faggot’ used on their [Lawrenceville] campus from time to time, although not often, and not by people I know,” one of the survey responses from WCC stated.
A number of students expressed dissatisfaction with campus services for LGBTQ students.
“I find it appalling that there is not an actual CENTER that students can go to if they have issues,” said a graduate student on the Lawrenceville campus. “Coming from another New Jersey school, Rider is extremely behind the times to support this population on campus.”
Others feel that supportive programs on campus are present, but haven’t yet reached their full potential.
“I am an accepting individual who believes LGBTQ students on this campus need to know that more people are there for them with something like the Ally Program. The program should be available for all students in order to increase awareness on campus so we don’t have to have heteronormative surveys like this.”
A faculty member on the Lawrenceville campus said: “If we’re interested in a tolerant and ‘friendly’ atmosphere on our campus — for everyone — we need more discussion, more informed discussion, and more openness,”
But according to some participants, there has been a significant improvement in recent years.
“As a gay male professor, I am heartened by the attitudes of the students on the Rider campus. Students have greatly improved compared to their counterparts of 20 years ago,” said a faculty survey participant.
How the survey was conducted
By Joe Petrizzo
The anonymous survey was sent out via SurveyMonkey on Feb. 18. Hundreds responded, 585 students and 122 faculty and staff.
Most questions were evaluated on a 10-point scale, “7 and up” was considered as “comfortable”, or “accepting” and “4 and down,” as “uncomfortable” or “unaccepting.”
Some respondents believed a few questions were poorly phrased. Including placement of a question that determined which campus participants belonged to.
On a student edition question, the options were “yes or no” instead of “1-10.” This was corrected but not before 255 students had already responded.
The margin of error is approximately ±4% for the student survey and ± 8% for the faculty and staff.
According to polling experts, there was also no way to prevent those who have already taken the poll from taking it again.