Saturday Night Live, Existentialism, Political theory, McSweeney's, Beyonce, & The New Yorker
September 26, 2016
If you’re anything like me, inclusion is an important part of your college search. While I was researching University of Richmond last year, Richmond's ranking for LBGT-friendliness really stood out to me -- ranked in Advocate’s list of 7 Brave Campuses for LGBT Students in the South. But I know it can be difficult to know what a brave campus looks like until you actually visit, so I thought I would write about my experience as a LGBT student on the Richmond campus/and in the city of Richmond.
When I was on my admitted students tour, I requested to stop by Common Ground on the online form. Common Ground is UR’s office for diversity and inclusion on campus, and I’m actually not sure if this is a typical campus tour stop or not, but I wanted to see what was up! Common Ground is on the third floor of the Tyler Haynes Commons, and when you walk in you’ll probably meet Tawyana (the administrative coordinator) who is literally the nicest person you’ll ever talk to. Common Ground has a lot of resources for all students, not just those in the LGBT community. They’ve also got this handy FAQ guide for prospective students. Think of Common Ground as your number one stop for anything related to social justice, equity, and engagement.
Connected to Common Ground is the LGBTQ Lounge, a safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or queer students, faculty, staff, and allies. There are also a lot of resources for students in the Lounge, and it’s a really nice place to hang out/drink coffee/watch a movie with friends/have a meeting/take a nap/unleash your inner chalk artist/crank out a term paper/basically, it’s a great place to be you.
In terms of LGBTQ student organizations, there are SCOPE and Icebreakers (I believe there’s also an organization that works with the Law School). SCOPE has more of a student-run club feeling, with a social calendar, support system, speaker events, advocacy, discussion, activism, you name it. SCOPE usually meets once a week, and it’s open to everyone. Icebreakers is a confidential setting — it’s a peer-run meeting, once a month. Because the website explains it way better than I do, click here for more info on Icebreakers.
When it comes to campus culture, from my experience the overwhelming majority of students are incredibly tolerant if not accepting. During orientation, I was really impressed by just how inclusive the UR community was. One thing that really stood out to me was a talk called “A Room Full of Unicorns: Finding Your Place at UR” which discussed individuality and intersectionality. I think a big part of this culture of acceptence is Safe Zone training — it’s been on campus for 20 years. Students, faculty, and staff can sign up for Safe Zone training through the year. There’s even a member list on the Common Ground website if you ever need to talk with someone with training. I’m looking forward to attending Safe Zone training in early October.
The city of Richmond also has a very accepting environment. There’s an organization called Side by Side (a lot of people will refer to it as ROSMY, it was just renamed), a support group for LGBTQ+ youth in Richmond. Side by Side is run by Ted Lewis, who was formerly director of LGBTQ Life at UR (they actually gave the UR orientation unicorns speech), and has programs geared towards individuals 14-20. And since we’re talking about the community, there are a bunch of different ways to get involved in the city of Richmond — definitely make a point to get off campus. At the heart of Richmond are a lot of community members who are interested in social justice, who come from all walks of lives and backgrounds and are focused on making intentional efforts to understand others.
Okay, so I’ve saved the best for last! Virginia Pride was this weekend and it rocked! If you’ve been to a Pride event before, it was ~most likely~ in June (June is designated as LGBT Pride Month, to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, and now it also has additional significance as the month when same-sex marriage was recognized by the Supreme Court). It seems unique to me that Richmond hosts Virginia Pride at the end of September. It’s a mystery to me why VA Pride is in September, but hey, the weather is way cooler and you can go with your college friends.
On our way to Pride! We had to walk a mile for parking #GetInShape
Quick backtrack. A real highlight of my summer was working with a program in Richmond, I AM MY LIFE, started by UR alum Chaz Barracks. Chaz curated a collection of stories for the VA Pride Guide featuring storytelling from LGBTQ+ Richmond individuals. Definitely check it out here, I think they have a lot of perspective into the connection that their identity has to Richmond.
Back to Pride. The weather at Pride was perfect this year (it was raining last year and I was literally drenched by the end). VA Pride, of course, is in Richmond, so it’s a lot more low key than big Pride festivals in DC, San Francisco, or NYC. But it’s totally awesome. Pride is on Brown’s Island, right by the Richmond Canal walk and river, and is a great place to hang out even if it's not Pride weekend. Mary Lambert (who sang the bridge/chorus on Macklemore’s Same Love) was performing and she was incredible! Hey, I guess that’s another perk to having Pride in September — less competition for amazing artists. Anyways, #TEARS, I’m still in awe of Mary Lambert.
Mary Lambert merchandise is a must have for every fall wardrobe
I’ll go ahead and trail off here… my bad if this was too lengthy! If you have any other questions about life for LGBT students at Richmond, I encourage you to reach out to Common Ground! Stay awesome.
UR welcome here,
Hey Spiders! My name is Cory, and I’m a sophomore and transfer student. I’m a double major in Rhetoric and Communication and Women, Gender, and Sexuaity Studies. My goal in life is to one day work at Olivia Pope & Associates, or at least work in crisis management or public relations. I grew up between Florida, Colorado, and Virginia, and similar to Cady Heron in Mean Girls, I was homeschooled. I love traveling, shopping at Target, spending time with my cat (named Soren Kittegaard), attempting to keep up with the Kardashians, reading Albert Camus, and hanging out with friends. Keep an eye out for some posts specifically about the transfer life! Sneak peek: so far it’s been fantastic.
Why UR?I didn’t really get connected to University of Richmond until I was a freshman in college. I met some amazing alumni and visited the campus and honestly fell in love with everything about Richmond. Michael Scott once said in The Office, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take - Wayne Gretzky,” and I knew that I had to take a shot and apply as a transfer student. I’m thrilled to be a Spider, to be at a university that feels like home, and to conquer my arachnophobia for once and for all.