By Tristan E. M. Leach
For Lindsey Mulrooney, self expression and being one’s authentic self is one of the most important things a person can do. Mulrooney, a senior management and leadership major, who identifies as bisexual, also advocates for doing what a person is passionate about. Like many other college students, Mulrooney chose her major to match her interests and talents.
“I chose to be a business major because I was an English and math kid, and business seemed like a place where I could use both of those,” Mulrooney said. “It just made sense to me career-wise to level the experiences that I’d had.”
Mulrooney entered a world where sexuality is seemingly an unimportant topic or taboo and has a long-running joke that there are no other queer business majors. While this is not the case, she admits that she does not know many others who fit this description.
This was what prompted her to write an opinion editorial for The Rider News. In her piece, Mulrooney detailed what it is like to be gay in a “straight major.” Mulrooney wrote that in general, she felt comfortable being out on Rider’s campus and attended LGBTQ+ events. “When I got to college it was the first environment where I was fully out. It became an important part of me in college, being a part of that community and also to advocate for it [the community] was really cool to me,” Mulrooney said.
However, when it came to her major and those required classes, she was less open and made an effort to avoid the topic of sexuality. For many, there is the view that sexuality and representation are not a factor in the world of business.
Lianne Litchfield, a sophomore film and television major, has two minors in the business college, a minor in marketing and a minor in social media strategies. Litchfield expressed that while her major allows room for expression of sexuality and gender, her minors have never really given the time or thought to the LGBTQ+ community.
“I don’t think that they’re [the business college] intentionally non-inclusive, it’s just really something that isn’t spoken about in the business world,” said Litchfield. “I think it could be spoken about a little more, it could be brought up a little more.”
It was Mulrooney’s editorial that caught the attention of students, staff, faculty and even Gene Kutcher, the dean of the business college. Mulrooney was shocked but very happy to see the response and dialogue her article had generated. Kutcher asked to meet with Mulrooney to discuss how to better the business college when it came to inclusivity and making queer students comfortable.
“Dean Kutcher scheduled a meeting with me pretty much right away and then wanted to listen. That meeting he really listened, he asked me questions, he wanted to know more about what I wrote about, what I was feeling and what I had experienced and then potential solutions,” said Mulrooney. “Then we had this very long and lovely conversation about all that, and then I gave suggestions I felt students would find helpful.”
In 2020, Rider University received a four out of five star rating on the Campus Pride Index. This rating shows how inclusive a university is for LGBTQ+ students. Rider prides itself on being a safe space for members of this community, but for some students, it is still a question not of safety, but of being comfortable.
Mulrooney went on to speak about the power of professors and faculty taking the SafeZone training, having the SafeZone sticker on their office door and adding their names to the ally list. She pointed out that when a queer person sees a professor with this sticker they are more likely to feel safe, heard and seen.
Rider has many safe spaces for LGBTQ+ students such as the Center of Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) or Spectrum Pride Alliance, known simply as Spectrum. Mulrooney is treasurer for Spectrum and is proud to create a space for fellow students to be “their gayest selves.” She has been a member of Spectrum since her freshman year and was thrilled to find herself in a position to continue the safe space that Spectrum has created for so many.
Kayla Ailey, a junior psychology major, is a friend of Mulrooney’s and vice president of Spectrum.
Ailey said, “Lindsey is a really good representation of the LGBTQ+ community because she is a business major who wants to pursue a career in business. You don’t usually get to see a lot of people who are gay and in business.”
Mulrooney hopes that the business college and Rider in general will continue to work toward being more inclusive for all students and people.
“I think some things that would be nice to see is professors in general that are actively identifying or taking the SafeZone trainings,” said Mulrooney.
When May comes, Mulrooney will graduate and start her life in the business world officially. Her goal is to be more open about her sexuality and be an ally to others while working in a world that doesn’t often offer opportunities for self expression.
“I think that … whether I am at school or moving into a career, making it known that I am an ally and an advocate”, said Mulrooney. “I am a member of the community, but also an ally within the community for the groups that I don’t identify. It means a lot, the fact that I’ve had students tell me ‘Your comfort and openness has made me more comfortable with my identity.’ ”