LGBTQIA+ student connection on campus

By Tristan E. M. Leach

A campuswide poll of Rider students yielding 348 responses shed light on student satisfaction with campus involvement. The ability to make and maintain friendships was significant to the data found by the Computer Assisted Reporting class that conducted the survey.

A factor that seemed to have an impact on a student’s ability or capability to make friends is sexual orientation, which may lead to self-isolation or denying their authentic selves. 

In a poll conducted in 2023 by College Pulse, 22% of students that identified as LGBTQIA+ said making friends was somewhat difficult. This is in stark contrast to Rider’s data, in which 8.91% of LGBTQIA+ Rider students reported it was somewhat difficult to make friends. 

Lianne Litchfield, a junior film and television major, identifies as a lesbian and uses she/her pronouns. For Litchfield, getting involved on campus was a way to make connections and friendships. Joining Greek Life became a goal of Litchfield’s who is now a sister of Phi Sigma Sigma.

“Living in my sorority house helps. Even if I don’t want to go to something, my sorority sisters will see me and go, ‘You’re going, you don’t have a choice,’” said Litchfield with a laugh. 

However, when making the move to Rider, Litchfield was careful of what personal information she shared, including her sexuality.

The comfort of disclosing one’s pronouns and sexuality is based on each person and how much they want to share. In a poll conducted by GallUp in 2023, 22.7% of Generation Z, a large portion of the current college population, self-identified as LGBTQIA+. As these students go through college, the chances for involvement is also based on what their institution can provide for them. 

When colleges put an emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion, it can encourage students to become more involved on campus and feel safe to participate in organizations that are often seen as heteronormative. 

Nick Smith, who uses he/they pronouns, is a freshman political science major who emphasized that living on campus and having a community that he was already a part of helped boost their confidence. Just like Litchfield, Smith found community in several organizations, including as a brother of Theta Chi. 

“I feel like I’m very involved on campus with all the organizations that I’m in and the leadership positions I have,” said Smith. 

Smith has involved himself in several clubs that have a focus on diversity and inclusion, but said they wished Rider made it easier to host events instead of having to jump through hoops to get something as simple as a tabling event set up. Smith feels that if this could be done, more students would get involved on campus and make friends. 

Smith’s idea may not be too far off. In the same poll conducted by College Pulse, 31% of LGBTQIA+ students said that making friends was somewhat easy. In a similar poll conducted by the CAR class in February and March, 10.63% of polled LGBTQIA+ students said it was somewhat easy to make friends. 

The same data found that students who identify as straight have an easier time making friends. The College Pulse data reported that 23% of straight-identifying students nationwide found it very easy to make friends. In the Rider poll, 9.48% of straight identifying Rider students polled that it was very easy to make friends. 

When asked the same question, 4.31% of LGBTQIA+-identifying Rider students said it was very easy to make friends at Rider.

Looking to advance her professional connections, junior entrepreneurial studies major Francesca Roehm joined the Women’s Leadership Council and became an executive board member of Circle K International, a community service organization. Roehm has also made an effort to join diverse organizations, such as Spectrum Pride Alliance. 

“I actually think I’m involved in too much, but I’m involved in about four clubs, and it’s usually on a higher level,” said Roehm. 

The data found by the Rider poll evaluates a small fraction of the university’s population, just as the College Pulse data only evaluates a small fraction of the national population of college students. Both sets of data are promising when it comes to making friends and being involved on a college campus.

 When asked how they would rate their involvement on a scale of one to 10, those interviewed reported their satisfaction to be a six or higher. Each student expressed that their friendships were integral parts of their college experience and emphasized the importance of Rider making sure there are ways for students to make connections. 

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