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Changes at the Rat
For 10 years a haven for lovers of hamburgers, chicken fingers, and fried mozzarella sticks, the Rat (officially, Lyons Dining Hall) this fall became a purveyor of “grab and go” foods such as cold Italian focaccia sandwiches, teriyaki salmon salad, and vegetarian vegetable soup.
The revamping of the basement dining hall has drawn student fire. Columns in the Heights on the subject have ranged from wistful (“Oh hark, sweet champion clogger of cholesterol! Where have you gone?” pined Jen Schiffner ’07) to cynical (“The entire dining situation is a mess and someone is behind it. . . . I smell a rat! Wait, that’s right, I don’t,” wrote Richard Rosario ’08). Protests have moved beyond the campus print media and into the online Facebook, where a community called “BRING BACK THE RAT!” boasts almost 700 members, and a second group, “We Want the Old Rat,” posts scathing criticism: “The Rat has become nothing more than the Healthy Squirrel.”
Citing the results of extensive surveying of the customer base as its impetus for overhauling the menu, Dining Services has assured students, via its website, that their fried food favorites aren’t gone for good, but rather have been integrated into the dining fare at Corcoran and McElroy Commons.
The change is the latest episode in the colorful history of the cafeteria. The facility was welcomed by students in 1951 as the first place to sit down and enjoy a meal on campus. Students previously had eaten in the basement of Gasson, standing up at waist-high tables. As the composition of BC’s student body changed, so too did the choice of dining halls—residential students ate at McElroy (constructed in 1961), commuters at Lyons. Since many day-hops arrived early in the morning and left late in the afternoon, the Rat became a lively home base—for eating, socializing, and playing cards between classes. Just as lively were Thursday nights, when the space would transform from a cafeteria to BC’s own beer hall, the Rathskeller, from which the current incarnation (without the beer) derives its name.
Read more by Tim Czerwienski