The Rat Pack (1960 - 1984)

Screenshot 2024-04-17 at 12.37.38 PM.png
Screenshot 2024-04-17 at 12.37.56 PM.png
Screenshot 2024-04-17 at 12.37.46 PM.png

Dublin Core

Title

The Rat Pack (1960 - 1984)

Description

The Rat Pack is a group of Johnnies that are known today for their boisterous cheering and school spirit at athletic competitions. In the past, however, the Rat Pack has been known for its demeaning behavior towards women through inappropriate gestures, comments, the objectification and exclusion of women, and instances of sexual harassment. “The aptly named ‘rat section’ displayed its ability to make noise only when the opposing cheerleaders took the floor.” Since the original “Rat”, Francis Berres in 1947, this frat-like organization has exhibited behaviors stemming from a foundation of sexist ideals throughout the history of Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s athletics and serves as an example of institutionalized and public sexism on campus.

Bennie alum Nancy Bellmont and Pat Welter have shared their experiences with the Rat Pack in the late 60s and early 70s to help paint a picture of their historical attitudes and ideas about women. According to Bellmont, the Rats were the most boisterous at home basketball games. She states that their behavior was so rowdy that Bennies wouldn’t dare walk in front of the group. In fact, both alumnae confirm that Bennies would walk all the way around the gym to get to the student section just so they wouldn’t have to walk in front of the Rat Pack. If they did, “they risked being grabbed and passed through the pack while their bodies were being groped and grabbed.” Bellmont recalls Bennies being dropped into the sea of bodies and disappearing for minutes at a time, while also noting that people were often hurt in the process. She states that students and members of the community would complain about this kind of behavior, but that it continued to persist despite the school’s efforts to put a stop to it. Bellmont even recalls taking her children to a Johnnie football game many years later and reports leaving early because of the vulgar language and raunchy behavior of the pack. The fact that this group continued to thrive despite its public display of sexist attitudes and formal complaints made by community members is a testament to the how deeply rooted sexism is in our society and college campuses, and how difficult it can be to uproot it.

Although these kinds of behaviors and actions are not explicitly stated in The Record for a multitude of reasons, there are various mentions of the Rat Pack that further help paint a picture of who the Rats were and what they were known for. In 1982, The Record published an article relaying the events of a basketball game, stating that the pack flashed a poster of Marilyn Monroe in an “alluring pose” to distract a basketball player while making a free throw. When the Rat logo, found on sweatshirts and t-shirts, changed from a rat with a friendly smile to one with a mischievous grin in 1984, it was reported in The Record that, “their [the Rat Pack] outrageousness and sometimes less than tasteful behavior towards non-Rats and women is emphasized by the mean-looking rat design.” Throughout the histories of St. Ben’s and St. John’s, there were also numerous complaints about the exclusiveness of the group with their "No-outsider, no-women policy”, In fact, the Rats remained a male-only group to uphold “tradition,” until January of 2020 at a basketball game.

Date

1958-Present

Citation

“The Rat Pack (1960 - 1984),” College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University Libraries, accessed June 15, 2024, https://csbsjulib.omeka.net/items/show/1601.