Along with the changes brought on by a new meal plan and class schedule, the Rathskeller, or Rat, is also adjusting to the absence of its former student supervisor, who said he lost his job without any explanation from Sodexho.
Rich Colli, senior general business major, said he finished Spring 2004 semester under the impression that he would be returning in Fall 2004 as co-supervisor of the on-campus bar/restaurant. However, he received a letter from Sodexho in June notifying him what to do with his 401K because he had been terminated.
Colli said he was confused because he was not told he would be losing his job. He said he called the Sodexho offices for an explanation twice but never received a reply. When he saw his job posted in the newspaper, he realized he was being replaced but could not understand why.
When asked about Colli’s employment, Harry Amberson, director of operations for Sodexho, said, “It’s not for discussion.”
Colli had been a student manager of the Rat in 2000 and was renamed supervisor when the College’s dining company switched from Wood to Sodexho in 2001.
This year marked Colli’s sixth year working at the Rat and as a student at the College.
“I don’t understand the reason, but I don’t have any hard feelings,” Colli said. He said he still visits the Rat to see his former co-workers, who are also his friends.
Christine Delouvrier, sophomore business major and waitress at the Rat, praised Colli. “He had created such a friendly and comfortable atmosphere and I think it speaks to his character that he wants to maintain his relationship with his former employees,” she said.
Another waitress, who spoke anonymously out of concern for her job, said the Rat is not the same without Colli and that she feels the morale declining.
“It’s not as fun an atmosphere,” she said. She said it’s darker and gloomier and not the hot spot it once was, with the Carte Blanche meal plans and the new class schedule keeping students away.
Colli said he senses the staff’s frustrations with the changes. “I keep telling the workers it’s going to get better,” he said. “I just wish it could get back to the way it was, whether I’m working there or not.”
Delouvrier said she has received comments from customers in regret of Rich’s absence and the changes in the Rat’s atmosphere, resulting in part from the removal of the beer signs put up on the walls over the summer.
The beer decorations were taken down not because the College is opposed to advertising the companies in the Rat but because Sodexho did not run “the concepts” through the College first, according to Karen Roth, director of Auxiliary Services.
“We’re waiting for a formal proposal (from Sodexho),” Roth said.
Junior Joe Bandelli, who goes to the Rat often, said, “It seems kind of dead in there now.”
“I think it got worse when (Colli) left,” Bandelli said. “I think because of his age he related a lot more to the people who go here.”
The new co-supervisor of the Rat, Donna McLaughlin, said she hopes to transform the Rat into a hangout that will attract students.
“I want to make it a fun place to come,” she said. “It’s a slow process but Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Some of McLaughlin’s ideas are to add a foosball or air hockey table to the Rat and hang more pictures of athletes on the walls.
However, Amberson said, “She can’t do anything like that.”
He said Sodexho only has control of the food and that the College regulates the Rat’s appearance. Sodexho employees can initiate ideas though, he said.
Colli said he has met McLaughlin, his replacement, and thinks she “is a really nice person.”
McLaughlin has two nephews who attend the College and she said they stop by to visit their “Aunt D” periodically.
“She’s fun and has a good personality,” her nephew James Smith, senior communications major, said.
McLaughlin will be working closely with returning supervisor Kevin Samuels, while Colli sets his sights on graduation.
“Things have changed so much,” Colli said. Nevertheless, his concern for the Rat hasn’t ended with his job. “I really hope the Rat is still going to be there in a couple years,” he said. “I just hope it gets better.”