At the University of Richmond, across from the Robins Center and tucked into the tree line, there are nine buildings collectively known as the lodges. Over the years, each of the nine lodges has been occupied by an on-campus fraternity as a place for brothers to host events. However, following fraternity suspensions, some lodges were left empty and have now become spaces for non-Greek life campus organizations.
Lodges were originally approved by UR administration to be built as housing for fraternities in the spring of 1950. In the fall semester of 1952, the first three fraternities to have a lodge were Phi Delta Theta, Phi Gamma Delta and Sigma Phi Epsilon. Throughout the following decades, new lodges were built and old ones were torn down, but one thing remained the same: they were always occupied by fraternities.
That precedent changed when, following the charter removals of Sigma Alpha Epsilon in 2015 and Sigma Chi in 2019, a committee known as the Student Organizational Social Space Committee was formed by the Richmond College Student Government Association and the Westhampton College Government Association.
The committee was established to reevaluate empty lodges and pose alternative ideas for the spaces that weren’t for fraternities, according to an April 2020 Collegian article.
On Jan. 28, the office for Rethink Waste and Spider Exchange opened in the former Sigma Chi lodge, becoming the first non-Greek life affiliated entity in the lodges since their construction, Rethink Waste staff said.
Rethink Waste, a campaign that was initially launched in 2017, is dedicated to minimizing the amount of waste produced on campus. It also hosts Spider Exchange, formerly known as the Office Supplies Exchange, where faculty, staff and students can donate or take supplies, clothes and other items.
Rethink Waste, formerly part of the Office for Sustainability, is now its own department, David Donaldson, Rethink Waste’s manager, said.
“Over time, the importance of [Rethink Waste] has grown so much that we were able to make it into a department,” Donaldson said.
The lodge has provided Rethink Waste with enough room to expand Spider Exchange and add room for administrative offices and meetings. The organization is also considering using its outdoor space for a garden.
First-year Sophie Tanner, Rethink Wastes’s communications specialist, said when she had first joined in the fall semester, the organization was operating by tabling around campus.
“[The lodge] has really changed what we do," Tanner said. "It really gives us a space where we can kind of operate out of not only space for the Spider Exchange — which is a great thing to have on campus — but also to just organize and make new ideas and to be more than just a tiny piece of a department.”
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The former Sigma Alpha Epsilon lodge has undergone extensive renovations over the past two years and has been renamed The CAVE, which stands for Campus Activities Venue for Entertainment. The building will be open for student organizations to reserve for meetings, events and any other affiliated activities by fall 2022, said Andrew Gurka, director of student involvement.
“It’s a different space,” Gurka said. “I think when people see it, it will feel different … It doesn’t look like any other space we have on campus; it’s got polished concrete floors and very modern fixtures and amenities."
The building features an indoor-outdoor patio and garage along with AV equipment and speakers that students can connect their devices to via Bluetooth. There are also plans to create a mural and other art projects inside The CAVE, Gurka said.
The future of another vacant lodge previously occupied by Theta Chi remains undecided.
Of the seven fraternities listed on the student involvement page, there are only two that do not have lodges, one of those being Alpha Phi Alpha, the only historically black fraternity at the University.
When the University entered the Green Stage, fraternities were able to return to pre-pandemic events without capacity limits, said Bond Magevney, junior and Interfraternity Council vice president of programming. Magevney said he has not yet been in the Rethink Waste lodge or the CAVE but appreciates the time the University spent on renovations.
“It’s great to have other organizations using that space,” said Magevney. “I’ve seen [the CAVE] from the outside and it looks really nice.”
To learn more about Rethink Waste and its initiatives, visit their Instagram account. To learn more about the Spider Exchange policies and guidelines, visit the website. The Rethink Waste lodge, located at New Fraternity Row 24D, is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Contact contributor Hayley Simms at email@example.com.
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