In the basement of the Student Center, two large transparent doors leading to a newly-renovated collaborative workspace – officially dubbed The Pride Den – opened to students for the first time Thursday evening. This is following a three-month-long project to completely renovate the space, formerly known as the Rathskeller, into a hub designed to promote a modern and versatile work environment.
According to Joseph Barkwill, vice president for Facilities and Operations, the renovations were a part of a three year plan to update the student center, the Pride Den being the last of these renovations. Barkwill says the project costed an estimated two million dollars for the architectural design, construction services, new furnishing and updated technological capabilities.
The Pride Den has maintained a similar layout to its previous rendition, yet it sports completely new furnishings as well as updated technologies for students to utilize, including: improved Wi-Fi, improved cellular service, televisions and an increase of over 200 outlets dispersed throughout the room – a fixture that many students were previously calling for.
The room is additionally comprised of a multitude of workspaces that function to hold meetings and events of all types, scaling from small group projects to larger discussions and lectures.
“It’s a huge space that the university needs to take advantage of. We wanted to keep the imagery, keep the vibe, but expand on its purpose,” said W. Houston Dougharty, the vice president for Student Affairs. “One thing people like is the sense of community with the smaller spaces to connect with your organization, class, etcetera. That’s exactly what this space has lent itself to.”
On the far side of the Pride Den is a window that looks into the Greenhouse, which additionally went under renovations to help increase and aid the efficiency of events that are held there. The room is akin to the versatility of the Pride Den in that it has the ability to cater itself to whatever group or event is present at the time. It has capabilities such as two projectors that can be used depending on the size of the group, as well as storage spaces for groups that frequently meet there to utilize, such as Hillel and the Student Government Association (SGA).
“The greenhouse has historically been the landing space for student government to host our weekly senate meetings … Our meetings are a time when we welcome clubs and organizations to visit us, listen in the gallery, but also bring us their concerns,“ Vice President of SGA Whitney Shepard said. “Hopefully with the updated Pride Den, clubs and organizations will feel more encouraged to not just stop by to visit SGA but to utilize the space and make it their home as well.”
The renovations also took the privacy of these groups into account, providing the option to pull down blinds on every window, as well as a redesigned back entrance that is now separate from the Greenhouse, which will leave meetings undisturbed by passersby.
Colin Sullivan, the director of communications in the division of Student Affairs, acclaimed the new space on its ability to be more inclusive of the Hofstra community than it ever was before. This was in response to some criticism from the Greek community on campus, who predominantly used the Rathskeller in the past.
Along the walls of the Pride Den are the plaques belonging to Greek life organizations that once hung in the old room; however, this time they hang alongside an array of plaques from other clubs around campus. Sullivan noted that the goal was not to abate the presence of Greek life, but to connect it to the rest of the university.
“We were being completely respectful of the history here,” Sullivan said. “It would be silly to not include that.”
Former Inter-Fraternity Sorority Council President Reba Putorti was an active student representative in the process of renovating the Den. She made it a priority to expand on the role of the new space and feels it was a necessary change to campus.
“Obviously Greek life wanted to still have a presence, and even if this renovation wasn’t going to take place, Greek life itself is expanding so much that we wouldn’t have fit down there the way things were before anyway,” Putorti said.
Putorti even feels that this new space will be beneficial to the Greek life community. “I see the upgrade as a great recruitment standpoint for new students to come in and hang out and talk casually with Greek members in a comfortable space everyone feels good in,” she said. “Greek life itself using the space will be better in terms of Greek unity … there [are] just open areas for everyone to sit wherever they want instead of being sectioned off by specific tables, so I hope Greek unity goes up in general.”
The diversity of who will use the Pride Den is uncertain at this moment; however, students involved in various clubs are already excited about what this new space will bring for them and the activities they are involved in.
“We are so excited for the new accommodations of the Pride Den and everything it will do for Hillel,” President of Hillel Josh Perloff said. “I think people often underestimate how something as simple as a meeting space can really affect the efficiency of your work. And on top of that, as a person who is involved in Greek life and clubs outside of Greek life, I am excited to see how this will bring more students together across campus.”
According to Dougharty and Sullivan, there is more in store for the space and its perimeter in the future. This includes potential additional seating in the hallway outside, as well as utilizing the kitchen area adjacent to the room for dining services. But even until this happens, the Pride Den is already proving to be a space that enables more students to flourish than before.