Early in the summer of 2018, Affordable Colleges Online published a list of schools they deemed the most welcoming for LGBTQIA-identifying college students. On June 28, the 49th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, Rowan University had been added to the list. During the week of October 7th, the Rowan community proved exactly why they deserved a place on such an extended list.
Coinciding with National Coming Out Week, Rowan University’s Office of Social Justice, Inclusion and Conflict Resolution (SJICR) held several events, big and small, to celebrate the momentous occasion.
National Coming Out Week is just one of a few different campus-wide events put together every year. Others include Transgender Awareness Week in November and Pride Week in April. Rowan’s Coming Out Week began on Oct. 7, with a day trip to Philadelphia’s annual Outfest, a festival made to pay tribute to the accomplishments of the LGBTQIA+ community both at home and worldwide.
On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, general meetings were held for organizations like True Colors, Prism and oStem, each club offering a safe space for LGBTQIA+ students.
The main event, however, was National Coming Out Week Fest (NCOW). Held on Wednesday, the small but vibrant festival took place on the back patio behind the Chamberlain Student Center. The purpose of the event was to promote Rowan’s inclusive LGBTQIA+ community, and the programs offered for students who identify as such. Some students passing by on their way to class visited the various tables set up. Some even picked up voter registration forms provided by the SJICR.
“We try to create a space where students can come and be their authentic selves,” said Joanna Murphy, assistant director for women’s and inclusion programs, as well as an interim assistant director for LGBTQIA+ inclusion programs. “For us, it’s a matter of not only recognizing multiple social identities but celebrating those social identities, and that’s what something like National Coming Out Week is all about. We want people to be their authentic selves, celebrate their identities and to feel welcome and included in our community.”
It’s incredibly refreshing to see educational institutions like Rowan University providing a voice for the voiceless, and a safe community where anyone and everyone, heterosexual or not, is welcome.
“I feel very strong for it… it’s really fantastic,” said Payge Tilton, an NCOW fest participant and Rowan student. “Ten, even five years ago, this probably wouldn’t fly, at least not without some controversy.”
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