University News

Ratty renovations still on table

After fundraising and planning period, proposed construction would likely take two years

Senior Staff Writer
Friday, September 25, 2015

While President Christina Paxson’s P’19 operational plan elaborates on a previously discussed intention to update the Sharpe Refectory, students should not expect construction to begin in the next year. 

The building was constructed in 1950, and the infrastructure has never been updated. The planned renovation would update the plumbing and HVAC systems, which would cost an estimated $30 million, said Barbara Chernow ’79, executive vice president of finance and administration.

The operational plan reads, “The Sharpe Refectory … no longer provides students with the dining options expected in a 21st century university. The facilities are badly outdated, and the space is not optimized to meet the needs of students to hold meetings, socialize and create community.”

Former Provost Vicki Colvin emerged as a major proponent of renovations to the Ratty during her year on the job.

“I’m a graduate of Brown from 1979, and I remember eating fondly at the Ratty, but it really hasn’t changed very much,” Chernow said.

Other features of the Ratty are also slotted for overhaul. The central hub of the dining room will be replaced by individual stations like the omelette bar, giving students a chance to enjoy meals prepared in front of them, Chernow said. The doors that face Patriot’s Court may also be opened to allow easier flow and more access to the space, she said.

The basement dining area that is currently the Ivy Room will be updated to accommodate student activities and late night events, and the rooms that are often locked on the main floor’s sides will see increased utilization, Chernow said. Retail options could also be added, she said.

The Ratty could also see the addition of a bakery, said Sazzy Gourley ’16, president of the Undergraduate Council of Students.

It is estimated that the project will cost around $50 million, including the $30 million structural renovation. This figure is in line with the costs of dining hall renovations on other campuses, Chernow said. Though fundraising has not officially begun, alums have already expressed enthusiasm for the idea, she said, adding that she expects a successful and exciting campaign.

While the price tag is large, students should not expect meal plan price to increase in the coming years as a result. In fact, the updates to the infrastructure could cause total operating costs to fall, though Chernow said that it is impossible to predict at this early stage of the process.

The current time frame for the execution of this project remains uncertain. “Renovations will happen to the Refectory; I do not know when,” said Richard Bova, senior associate dean of Residential Life and Dining Services.

Chernow said she expects the planning process to take a year before going to the Corporation for approval, adding that the construction process could take an additional 24 months. In order to accommodate student dining options, the construction will likely be done in phases, and expansions to other dining facilities will likely be made.

UCS is committed to having students be an active part of the process, Gourley said. “In terms of my role on UCS, I want to make sure that … students are able to give feedback,” he said. “It’s important for students to have the opportunity to contribute to the Ratty development process throughout the planning phases.”


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  1. Have the BDH offices relocated to the inside of Paxson’s butthole? I only ask the question.

  2. That one of the most integral and important facilities on the campus hasn’t been updated in 65 years is disgraceful and emblematic of the serious financial issues confronting Brown. A stagnant annual fund (in terms of dollars raised and alumni participation),the lowest and worst-performing endowment in the Ivy League, a budget that chronically relies on deficit spending (further eroding the endowment). This is a leadership issue and, failing the launch of a VERY significant capital campaign next month supported by a minimum $1.0 billion nucleus fund, and a much more concrete, specific plan to eliminate the deficit caused by a bloated administration infrastructure, the Brown Corporation should turn the administration upside down and search for new leadership. Brown continues to fall farther and farther behind its peers. It’s all about leadership.

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