If you give a mouse a cookie...

Rodent Aficionados Michael Menna and Lauren Beck investigate the presence of the conspicuous rodent that occasionally greets you outside the gates of 116th on your way to class.

Last week, Bwog spotted rats on Broadway. While not the only rodents seen in Morningside, the rats at Columbia’s gate may have been the largest. Twelve feet tall and emblazoned with pink spores (thank you, Carpenter’s Union) the rats were stationed at Columbia’s gates to protest what the Carpenter’s Union alleges are questionable construction dealings on the University’s part.

According to the dogmatic one-sheets available beside a sign that reads “SHAME ON THE TRUSTEES OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY,” CU leadership dishonorably employs the nonunion contractor, Schulman Industries, for its projects. In doing so, university leadership has committed the no-no of supporting shifty construction companies that do not provide their workers with “the standards they deserve,” fair wages and benefits among them.

In the union’s open letter, they address Columbia’s student body in an attempt to convince students like us to take on President Lee Bollinger and demand that he initiate what they call a “Responsible Bidder Policy” with contractors. Believe what you will about workers’ rights and Columbia’s obligation, we can all admit that the NYCDCC knows how to get students’ attention. Nothing quite shocks the senses like an inflatable rodent, which jarringly synthesizes things we love (moonbounces, balloons, etc.) and things we hate (rats), and seem likely as anything to break through sleeplessness and hangovers toward something like social consciousness. If you’ve seen the rats about before, it’s because unions use them frequently to protest against companies and private citizens who support nonunion construction work.

The NYC District Council of Carpenters also appears to understand that our minds are somewhat glazed from too much reading; they bold every single “Columbia University” and “Schulman Industries” on the page as if to facilitate absorbing the fact that Columbia University and Schulman Industries did something bad, and that we should do something about it.

If you are interested in the unfolding of labor dispute and want to learn more, feel free to talk to whoever is manning the sign at the main entrance. They are more than happy to talk with you. But if you just want to look at some massive inflatable rats harassing various NYC storefronts (even churches, apparently, are not impervious to their wrath), see The Rat Patrol on Flickr.

Angry rodent via Flickr