For the second time in five days, Citadel cadets found a rodent in the school's mess hall. On Friday, a small, furry animal was filmed wriggling and apparently stuck in the slot of an upright toaster in the school's Coward Dining Hall.
“There’s a rat in this toaster,” a male cadet's voice can be heard muttering matter-of-factly on video footage circulating on social media. “It’s still alive.”
On Tuesday, The Post and Courier reported that another live rodent, also contemporaneously identified by cadets on video as a “rat”, had been spotted leaping, Ratatouille-style, between walls and counters in the dining facility the day beforehand.
Citadel officials confirmed that the creatures had appeared in the cafeteria, but disputed their identity. “I can confirm that in both instances, they were mice, not rats,” said Colonel John Dorrian, the college’s vice president of communication and marketing, in a phone interview with the Post and Courier on Friday. The rodents, whose presence in the dining facility he called “disgusting,” were identified as mice by “the people who neutralized them,” he continued.
Species aside, the animals caused quite a stir on social media pages dedicated to commentary on life at The Citadel. When posted to an Instagram account called @barstoolelcid, that first video was viewed over 3,600 times. Citadel’s current undergraduate enrollment is approximately 2,300, according to its website.
The second video (the one of the toaster-trapped varmint) seems on pace to be similarly popular, racking up 65 likes, 55 comments, and 45 shares in just three hours on Citadel Safari, a Facebook community page. On that post, comments ranged from disgust and frustration to nonchalance and sarcasm.
“Just start the toaster. Problem is solved plus you’ll get an edible meal,” wrote Facebook user Logan Mac.
“Can’t we do better than this for our cadets?” wrote Matt Karres.
A person named Hunter Rogers weighed in with an apparent reference to the outcome of the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s most recent inspection of the facility. “96 rating, don’t forget it” he commented, including an “A-OK” emoji sign.
According to DHEC’s latest Retail Food Establishment Inspection, the mess hall received a 96 percent or “A” rating on Sept. 10, one day following the circulation of videos of the first rat on social media. A spokesperson for the agency, Laura Renwick, confirmed that DHEC had conducted a routine inspection of the facility based on complaints about the initial rodent, and had reviewed an invoice from The Citadel's pest control contractor to affirm the school was taking appropriate measures.
Coward Dining Hall is part of Citadel Dining Services, which the French food-services conglomerate Sodexo manages under contract with the school. Omar Muhammed, listed on The Citadel’s website as the general manager of Citadel Dining services, did not return to a phone call and voicemail requesting comment before press time. An emailed inquiry to Sodexo’s corporate media team also went unanswered.
Because of The Citadel’s marshland setting, said Dorrian, “we must constantly be vigilant and battle” pest issues in the school’s facilities. “It’s not something we’re ever going to be satisfied with or declare victory on," he continued.
After the first rodent sighting earlier this week, the school reviewed advice from DHEC and site experts and did “a tremendous amount of work” retrofitting doors and openings to reduce entry points, he said. After Friday’s incident, Dorrian continued, the school planned to work with its current contractor, Gregory Pest Solutions, and bring in specialty contractor, Steritech, for additional perspective and accountability. He noted that Sodexo had contacted DHEC immediately, and an agent conducted an additional inspection on Friday afternoon.
“One rodent in our mess hall eating food that is intended to be for our cadets is one too many,” said Dorrian.
What about two too many? “We’re really going to have to step up our game,” he said.