John Jay trays

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Sample etching

The John Jay Dining Hall trays were once a distinct part of the Columbia undergraduate 'student life' sub-culture.


Before 2008-2009, John Jay Dining Hall patrons collected the component parts of their meal on plastic/fiberglass cafeteria trays, of the type commonly found in any cafeteria/fast food setting. Over the years, students etched the trays with clever witticisms and images, generally revolving around 'tray' puns. Picking up a tray from the cafeteria line and discovering a new bit of linguistic humor was one of the simple joys that accompanied freshman-fifteen inducing meals. Examples of tray carvings included "Tray Guevara", "John Tray", "Sexual Frustraytion", "Traydo-Masochism", etc. More images of tray art can be found on The Bwog.[1]

Following the 2003-2004 school year, Dining Services replaced all of the trays in John Jay Dining Hall. However, tray puns found their way back onto the new set of trays.

Quasi-witty etching examples

  • Mothafuckas act like they forgot about Tray.
  • Shall I compare thee to a summer's tray?
  • All work & no tray make John Jay a dull boy.
  • She moves in mysterious trays.
  • Sustaining the grand traydition, one tray at a time.


In addition to providing a medium for witty expression, students regularly commandeered trays for use as makeshift sleds for use on The Steps or in Riverside Park on heavy snow days.


Unfortunately, at the start of the 2008-2009 academic year, the trays were permanently removed from John Jay by Columbia University Dining Services, citing environmental benefits due to reduced water and soap consumption, health benefits from a reduction in overeating, and "authentic New York experience," sans trays.

The response has generally been negative due to inconvenience, but there is no indication that these impromptu fiberglass canvases will ever make a comeback to John Jay. The fate of the cleverly carved trays is unknown and Dining Sevices probably missed a golden opportunity to hold a charity auction for some of the more remarkable trays and pay homage to the end of a tradition.


External links