Members of Lawrence’s co-op house are currently struggling with disagreements between themselves and the administration because of changes that will take place under the new student group housing policy.While the co-op house may be most well known for its dedication to eco-friendly consumption of organic foods and other materials, member Gustavo Setrini states that, “The purpose of the house is to facilitate cooperative living. We have established a diverse and thriving community within the larger context of the Lawrence community.” The University may change policy regarding board transfer, which could reduce the amount of money group houses would receive. This change threatens to all but destroy the virtually self-sufficient society of the co-op house.
Under the current system, an individual student’s board money that would usually be forwarded to cover Downer costs can be transferred if the student resides in a small house or a fraternity. These groups can then shop and cook for themselves, allowing them to be able to dine together in the privacy of their house. New standards could deny a large portion of small house board transfers, which would greatly hinder fraternity life, and possibly render the co-op house out of existence.
Without access to the board money, individual members state that it would be impossible to eat according to the standards they have set for themselves. Cooperative living allows the co-op members to share three eco-friendly meals a day, a task that would prove to be virtually impossible in a dormitory setting. Cooperation among the nine members not only saves a great deal of time, but a great deal of money as well. Setrini states that while shopping at farmer’s markets and only buying organic foods is certainly more expensive than buying non-organic food, the money the house saves by cooking and washing their own dishes as opposed to hiring help cuts the overall dining costs substantially.
This has caused members of the house to question the administration’s attempt to change the policy. Members of the co-op house feel that it all comes down to variations of the definition of the word “community.” Lawrence administration advocates the gathering of all students at each meal in order to foster a sense of community.
They believe that the best way to achieve this is by encouraging students to eat at Downer and other common sites of which the whole student body has access. Setrini finds this ironic as he says that the co-op house provides an excellent sense of community. He points out that eating three meals a day in a large impersonal dining room full of hundreds of students could quite possibly degenerate rather than foster a sense of community. The co-op, he states, is a much more intimate environment. The co-op house in general does not understand how Lawrence hopes to gain a sense of community by dismantling the communities that exist within it.