As undergraduates scramble to finalize housing plans for next year, students applying to cooperative houses are meeting future housemates through Zoom rooms, as all eight University-owned co-ops have kicked off their first-ever fully virtual Co-op Mosey.
Mosey, which started Sunday, is the two-week recruitment process that allows applicants to interact with co-ops on campus, typically through low-stakes dinners as well as movie and game nights. After foregoing mosey during fall 2020, the entirely virtual format has made it challenging for some applicants to figure out which community feels like home.
Similar to the transition to virtual ClubFest, the Sunday Open House was hosted on a CampusGroups page, where interested students watched co-op prepared videos, indicated interest and hopped into Zoom breakout rooms with house officers.
Ella Bear ’24, a prospective applicant, said the event felt similar to searching for clubs.
“Just like ClubFest, I went through and I would click and see what the different co-ops had with little videos of the houses or just members talking,” Bear said. “And based on that I went through and said ‘I’m interested’ to a few, and now I’m planning on going to more events and seeing what the vibes are from each co-op.”
In past years, the mosey process drew hundreds of interested students to the co-ops in one-day excursions that stretched from North to West Campus.
Emily Walton ’22, president of Wari House, a living space for self-identifying Black women, said in-person social events and dinners were once integral for co-op members and moseying applicants to learn more about one another.
“And so virtually, of course, some of that was lacking,” Walton said. “But I would say that we had a really successful mosey on Sunday. We were really able to utilize our social media platforms like our Instagram, and our website to help people navigate CampusGroups, which we all know can be kind of challenging.”
For co-ops like 660 Stewart Cooperative, this isn’t the first time the house has run virtual mosey events, as the house held them before the pandemic for out-of-town applicants.
But the virus has uniquely affected both co-op living situations and their recruitment process. At greater risk for exposure, co-op residents are now tested three times a week, and some have canceled their house meal plans for the academic year to avoid unnecessary contact. Instead, housemates are expected to cook or buy food for themselves and eat while social distancing.
“[COVID-19 has] been definitely a leading thing in our conversations,” said 660 Stewart Cooperative officer Claire Kenwood ’22. “I think there also is a level of, ‘How do you stay sane while having restrictions in your own home?’ It’s been finding a balance that everyone is comfortable with.”
To get the word out about moseying, Wait Terrace Cooperative treasurer William Nnuro ’21 found that the virtual environment increased awareness, given that the most reliable form of advertising for University co-ops has typically been word-of-mouth.
“Communicating online isn’t the same,” Nnuro said. “But, if I’d say anything is gained, it’s that maybe we can reach more people, because all they have to do is log into their laptop and pop in and get all their information in one place without having to move too much.”
Although co-op officers have held fun virtual activities, they also recognize the potential for Zoom burnout –– a feeling that officers like Walton are all too familiar with.
“You want to have Zoom events, and you want to get people to know about you, but you don’t want to inundate their time by being on Zoom all day, and so it’s really been kind of a balance,” Walton said. “We’ve been playing around with social media posts and passive interaction, as well as talking to the girls directly and starting dialogues that way.”
Still, co-ops are continuing to welcome new Cornellians into the co-op community, one that has created a source of comfort for some current residents through pandemic isolation.
“I personally feel lucky to have 16 people living in my home in a time. I think a lot of people are feeling really isolated,” Kenwood said. “On the other end of that, I know that it’s also a little bit more scary to live in a house with more contact points. That depends on the person, but I’ve appreciated it.”