Amidst red brick buildings and carefully landscaped quads at Miami University, there is a black sheep. That is, Western Lodge.
Western Lodge sits comfortably on Western Campus (where the original women’s college used to reside) just down the one-way from Peabody Hall.
Western Lodge became affiliated with Miami once the Women’s College did in 1974.
The Office of Student Activities and Leadership is in charge of Western Lodge and its sister lodge, Women’s Recreation Association (WRA) Cabin. The WRA built the facility back when there were two separate physical education departments, according to university archivist Bob Schmidt. The WRA is off campus past Ditmer parking lot near Butterfield Farms.
“Western Lodge is nice for those who would like to do something a little different,” J.S. Cragg, assistant director of student activities and leadership, said. “WRA is a little more secluded and private, which is also appealing to a few groups.”
The Oxford Police are kept informed of when the facilities are in use, according to Cindy Fledderman, administrative assistant in the Office of Student Activities and Leadership.
“WRA is very secluded, so we like to keep the police informed in order for them to check things out occasionally,” Fledderman said. “Also, students can feel some sort of safety if they are using these facilities.”
While classes are in session during the regular school year, only student organizations and university departments have access to the cabins, according to Fledderman and Cragg.
“It is only offered to members of the university in order for them to get first priority,” Fledderman said. “When school is not in session, private parties can rent the cabins out for $60 a day.”
All student groups can access Western Lodge free of charge, according to Cragg. Private parties that choose to rent out the buildings are known for throwing birthday parties and wedding receptions.
“Western Lodge is great for our fraternity because we don’t have a house yet and it is a nice place for us to have chapter,” Dan Heffernan, a member of Phi Sigma Phi, said. “Because it is more private and comfortable, people are less anxious to rush through things and leave.”
Sophomore Drew McDonell, a member of Alpha Omicron Pi, used WRA for a sorority retreat.
“It was soon after I rushed that we had a retreat at WRA,” McDonell said. “My sorority used it as a place for us to get away from campus in order to bond with each other. It was nice because it had a lot of amenities.”
Fledderman said both cabins come equipped with some AV features (such as a VCR and a few overhead projectors). They also have limited kitchen supplies, a stove, a refrigerator, a microwave, some couches, tables and chairs. WRA also has a few bunk beds in case people plan to stay the night.
“Groups are allowed to stay overnight as long as the group adviser stays as well,” Cragg said. “If they choose not to do that, they can only stay until midnight.”
The facilities stay busy throughout the year, according to Fledderman.
“We are pretty much busy all the time,” Fledderman said. “Groups who really want to use our facilities know to plan ahead. However, if people call in for a last minute slot, it can be hard to find them an opening.”
Cragg said Miami’s website has pictures of the facilities — part of the draw to the cabins.
The cabins come with general rules, such as cleaning up afterwards and the prohibition of alcohol, Fledderman explained. However, they have never really had issues with people being disrespectful.
“We do encounter the occasional problem,” Cragg said. “However, people are mostly respectful of our establishments.”
The cabins can accommodate 40 to 50 people and housekeeping staff cleans each daily.
“If there ever are any problems, we are pretty much notified right away by the housekeeping staff or the police,” Fledderman said.
The cabins are used by myriad organizations. There is not one particular type of group that takes advantage of these buildings. The groups that are familiar with Western Lodge tend to use it more often than newer groups.
“Once a group has used Western Lodge, they mostly fall in love with it,” Cragg said. “We have an ad in the student activities handbook, but most people find out about it through word of mouth.”
Senior Nyssa Snow, president of Miami University’s Choraliers, has booked many parties for the school choir at Western Lodge.
“I try to book our events as far in advance as possible,” Snow said. “There isn’t a mandatory time it needs to be reserved by, but I know that it can be pretty popular. We weren’t able to have our Halloween party there last year because someone else had already booked it.”