Lodges might not be used only by fraternities in the future. The presidents of student government on campus formed a committee in November to discuss allowing non-Greek-life student clubs and organizations to use a vacant lodge as a social space.
Committee chairs Mike Laposata, senior and president of Richmond College Student Government Association, and Lindsey Paul, senior and president of Westhampton College Government Association, formed the committee after a student mentioned the idea to Laposata last spring.
“This was something that was brought to my attention at the end of last year, right after I was elected president of the RCSGA,” Laposata said. “I met with a former suitemate of mine, Bilal Hindi, and we had a conversation essentially that was just, ‘Hey, me and my friends have been talking about this thing. What if student organizations were able to have some sort of social space in one of the lodges?’”
Paul said the goal of the committee this semester was to figure out how best to proceed. The first committee meeting was on Nov. 15, she said.
“We have met with that committee once so far,” Paul said. ”We’ll meet once again before the end of the semester, and then we’ll move into next semester where a bulk of the work will be done. We just had introductory discussions about whether more social spaces or new kinds of social spaces would even be necessary.”
Paul said the committee did not have an official name yet, but she referred to it as the Student Organization Social Space Committee. The committee is composed of Paul, Laposata and 11 students.
Laposata said the committee members were from various student organizations on campus and that the committee comprised both upperclassmen and underclassmen.
”This isn’t just a group of juniors and seniors that are going to put this together and leave,” Laposata said. “We also have some younger students on this committee, which we think is really important for continuing the viability of whatever we create moving into the future.”
The next committee meeting will be on Dec. 6, Laposata said. The committee still needs to look into the logistics of using a lodge, he said.
“This doesn’t mean it’s going to be used exactly how a fraternity lodge functions now, but that is the space that we are looking at,” Laposata said. “And we’re looking at, within that space, what can we do to fulfill whatever functions the committee decides.”
Senior Dan Mahoney, Interfraternity Council president and a member of the committee, said non-Greek-life organizations using a lodge would present many logistical challenges.
“Hosting events in lodges, maintaining the facilities themselves and also keeping them safe when you are hosting events, all of those things present pretty significant logistical difficulties that fraternities are uniquely equipped to overcome because, in some ways, we are designed to do that,” Mahoney said. “But other groups who don’t have the experience or the institutional knowledge of how that has happened in the past and how that needs to happen moving forward likely will have a hard time just because it’s an enormous undertaking.”
Mahoney said that insurance would also be a problem.
“It would be really difficult for groups that don’t have larger insurance policies to find a way to legally serve alcohol at an event in the lodge because there won’t be any system in place to shield them from liability if something were to go wrong in that setting,” Mahoney said.
Alison Keller, director of the Center for Student Involvement and adviser to the committee, said the committee members must figure out what would be needed for the space and whom it would serve before deciding whether a lodge could work.
“We have to identify the functions of how the space will be used, which will drive the decision as to whether that’s the appropriate space or not,” Keller said.
Senior Gibran Merchant, committee member, said other spaces besides a lodge had been discussed during the first meeting.
“We talked about a bunch of other spaces on campus that could be used,” Merchant said. “For example, [the Black Student Alliance] has had parties in Alice Haynes and the Web, so it was more about figuring out if the space was to be used, how it would be used and what it would be used for, given that there might be other spaces as well.”
Merchant said that access to a social space would give more student organizations opportunities to participate in the campus social scene. Merchant said his pre-health fraternity, Delta Epsilon Mu, had been unable to organize a joint social with other professional fraternities last year because it could not get access to a space.
“We definitely couldn’t do it in an apartment because that’s way too many people, so we would have to go off campus,” Merchant said. “But being professional organizations for the most part, we don’t have a big budget because everything that we have in our budget is from member dues, which isn’t a lot.”
Senior Bilal Hindi, the student who first brought the idea up with Laposata, said the inclusivity of Ring Dance had given him the idea.
“Ring Dance, I thought, was a lot of fun because it was the first time for me that I saw a party scene with everyone involved,” Hindi said. “My roommate was an exchange student. Exchange students were there, international students were there, people of color, people from different clubs, people who are not Greek affiliated, people who are Greek affiliated.
"It was a nice mix of people and organizations from our campus that I wouldn’t normally see at one place. Ring Dance made me angry that we don’t have that on campus.”
Hindi said he hoped that if a lodge space were to be used by non-Greek-life organizations, it would be open to everyone.
“I think our campus really needs it,” he said. “We can’t claim to be always top-ranking in a lot of things when your students don’t have a social scene that’s welcoming for everyone.”
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