Editor's note: This opinion piece was updated to include information about policies regarding fraternity events without alcohol.
The lodge is an important and widespread aspect of social life at the University of Richmond, and it is in danger. New policies created by national Greek-life organizations have the chance to fundamentally change lodges as we know them by requiring a limited guest list that would turn lodges into invite-only events.
I have sympathy for the fraternities here. They got a bad deal. Although these new rules are meant to make on-campus parties more safe, I do not believe that they will be successful in that pursuit at UR. The rule requires additional risk personnel, which is a positive change, but it comes with a required limited guest list that will make lodges less inclusive and potentially more unsafe.
These rules are not hard and fast for fraternity parties but rather for bring-your-own-beverage events only. Because of this exception for parties at which alcohol is not served, fraternities and the university should commit to keeping lodges inclusive and safe by removing the serving of alcohol in the lodges.
Alcohol use on college campuses is a serious matter, and it is impossible to have a real and honest discussion without a common understanding of the factors at play. Alcohol is a part of the social lives of college students. That is a fact. UR has an alcohol culture, and so does the vast majority of colleges. Universities are responsible for tending to the well-being of their students, and this includes creating a healthy alcohol culture that is safe and inclusive.
UR affords fraternities a tremendous amount of influence by allowing the lodges on campus. With this tremendous power, the university places a considerable amount of trust in the fraternities to contribute in a sizable way to the safe and inclusive environment it is trying to create.
In my experience, lodges are predominantly safe and inclusive for most students on campus. Risk personnel at lodges exert control and are responsible. With the exception of a couple lodges that often allow only fraternity brothers in, you can go to any lodge you want no matter who you are. Fraternities and the university have a responsibility to work together to maintain this environment.
Although alcohol no longer being served at the lodges is not ideal, I see it as a minor concession to make in exchange for preserving the lodge. This concession is especially minor because the bulk of most students' alcohol consumption occurs before the lodge, not during.
Unfortunately, attendance at alcohol-free events is also limited by national organization rules that differ for each fraternity. However, despite the fact that dry events have regulations, they are universally less stringent than those governing events that involve alcohol.
I have heard a lot of fraternity brothers saying they are upset about the rule changes and want to keep lodges open to the campus community as a whole, and I appreciate those sentiments. But now those brothers have a chance to prove it by no longer serving alcohol at their lodges. Fraternities can show their commitment to being a positive impact on the campus community by opening their lodges to the widest group possible because they have chosen to, not because anybody forces them.
Contact senior opinions writer Cal Pringle at firstname.lastname@example.org.