This week and next, students will consider cooperative living by attending open houses in a process known as Mosey. According to some residents, the cooperatives are Cornell’s best-kept housing secret.
“Sadly, a lot of students do not even know what coops are,” said Lauren Beene ’07, education chair of Watermargin Cooperative.
Coops are an alternative to traditional campus housing and are less expensive than the residence halls. Although the buildings are University-owned, Beene said coops provide students with a greater sense of responsibility and independence and are entirely student managed.
“Living in a coop provides me with a sense of community and responsibility. It’s great because you can be involved as little or as much you would like. It provides you with the convenience of living on campus, but without the hassle of having to deal with an R.A. I also think it’s the closest experience you can have to dealing with real world challenges,” Beene said.
Suneth Attygalle ’07, former president of Watermargin, added,“I think the best part about living in a coop is dealing with all the challenges. We have such a diverse group of people living here and cooking together. I don’t think I would have met all these amazing people had I not decided to live here. You learn to cooperate with all types of people through handling finances, cleaning and maintaining the house.”
Coops house sligtly less than 200 students in eight University-owned houses on campus.
Mosey is a two-week long period during which all the coops hold open events at their houses. Last Saturday, the eight coops — 660 Stewart, Triphammer, Von Cramm, Wait Ave, Wait Terrace, Wari, Prospect of Whitby and Watermargin — invited participants into their houses.
“If people participate in our events, it gives them a good idea if they could see themselves living in a coop,” said Karyn Hartz ’07, president of 660 Stewart.
Although all the coops participate in Mosey, each house has an individual process for selecting new members.
“There’s no screaming and all you have to do is attend fun events that occur every night, such as dessert night, games night, tie-dye night and hors d’oeuvres night,” Hartz said, comparing Mosey to the formal recruitment process for fraternities and sororities.
After Mosey, each house selects its members either through an interview and application process or a random lottery. Each coop is unique and caters to different types of individuals. For example, Wari caters to women of color. Housing only 10 women, Wari is the smallest coop on campus.
“I love our house because of the diversity and cultural awareness. We participate in a lot of events like Unity Hour with Ujjama, sleepovers with Ithaca High School students and even an open poetry night,” said Abena Sackey ’07, Wari’s house manager.
“Although our house only has 10 girls, we encourage everyone to come to our events. Our door is always open to everyone. We’re very proud of our house and our history.”
Like Wari, Watermargin also has a strong sense of cultural history. After having fought together, World War II veterans founded Watermargin because they wanted a place to live together. Watermargin has hosted Langston Hughes, Malcolm X and Eleanor Roosevelt as guests.
“I don’t think I could see myself living anywhere else,” said Jenica Abram ’07, a former house manager of the 302 Wait Avenue Coop. “However, it really isn’t fair that people stereotype and assume that we are all hippies because we live in a coop. That might be true of some places, but in Wait Ave. we’re just a group of girls who enjoying living together. There’s always someone around too hang out with. It’s great.”
Still, not all coops are offended by the hippie stereotype.
“If I had to describe our house, I’d consider us the hippie homemaker coop,” said Devin Kennedy ’09, president of the Prospect of Whitby Coop.
“We’re just a relaxed group of people who get along well and have a strong sense of community. There aren’t really any negatives to living in a coop except perhaps finding a good balance with campus life. It can be frustrating sometimes,” he said.
Since these coops are owned by the University, all maintenance and changes must be approved by the University. Kennedy said that students cannot paint their rooms without first getting them approved by the university.
“Finding a balance between Campus Life and the coop might be a pain, but it’s the exchange you make for cheaper housing,” Hartz said.
Living in a coop costs about $5,000 a year.
“Perhaps I would have considered living in a coop if Campus Life had done a better job of advertising, instead of signing an expensive lease,” Olivia Lee ’09 said.