In the wake of revived discussions surrounding the future of the beloved Sharpe Refectory, the University must consider the inherent gravity of its decision-making process. While the Ratty has served as a hub of student dining since its construction as part of the larger Wriston Quadrangle development of the early 1950s, the facility is unquestionably outdated and its role must be reconsidered within the context of an increasingly modern and ever-expanding campus.
As outlined by the University in the 2013 Handbook for Physical Planning, the Ratty needs to be reconfigured to more properly reflect its integral role in the daily goings-on of the Brown community, by way of a shift to a mixed-use functionality. This idea is in no way novel, but we wish to express the need and necessity of incorporating dining, residential and academic capacities into this newly conceived space.
Though discussions regarding the fate of the Ratty have been ongoing, the facility is in dire need of repair and is a poor reflection of an institution of Brown’s caliber. As various administrators told The Herald (“Talks underway for Ratty renovation,” Jan. 27), the facility — in its current form and functionality — is simply outdated and at the most basic level would require upgrades in its “infrastructure of electrical, plumbing, heating and ventilation.” Beyond the issue of limited and often disappointing culinary options, the underlying concern rests in facilitating the transition to “more of a modern dining experience,” as articulated by Provost Vicki Colvin.
While there are indeed financial considerations at play, particularly when deciding between a mere upgrade and a complete reconfiguration of the facility, the current situation presents a unique opportunity for the University to significantly improve the fabric of the campus. While Harvard and Yale rely heavily on their respective residential systems as the foundational element of students’ broader dining experiences, Brown is structured differently and does not have a centrally located space geared primarily to dining and socializing. Though Andrews Commons was an attempt to fill this void, the mere location of the space makes it inconvenient for many students living both on and off campus.
By building a new layout for the Ratty — one that could accommodate all students, regardless of meal plan — Brown would essentially create another popular hub on campus and alleviate the burden on other facilities, namely the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center. Adding a residential component to this scheme, as outlined in the 2013 plan, would further integrate the space and moreover increase the number of available beds on campus to match the University’s projected growth.
The Ratty undoubtedly serves as the source of many fond memories for current students and alums alike. The current physical state of the building, however, is unsustainable and must be reevaluated to find the most efficient use today. Crafting a new space that expands and enhances the dining, residential and social experiences of Brown community members will positively impact the campus for years to come. We sincerely hope the next iteration of the Sharpe Refectory will not lend itself to the nickname “Ratty.”
Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15, and its members, Zoila Bergeron ’17, Natasha Bluth ’15, Manuel Contreras ’16, Baxter DiFabrizio ’15, Manuel Monti-Nussbaum ’15 and Katherine Pollock ’16. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.