OSCA Suffers Decline in Membership
The Oberlin Student Cooperative Association began its 57th year of operation under-enrolled this month. Only 607 of the 630 spots were claimed when campus opened, while in semesters past OSCA has often been at its membership limit, with many more students on the waitlists.
It is often the case that many students may not be able to get into their preferred co-ops, but it is not common that the term starts off with so many open slots. As of this week, the waitlists for dining at Fairchild, Harkness, Kosher-Halal and Pyle Inn remain empty.
OSCA President and senior John Matters said of the situation: “One of the biggest changes we have seen this year is a decrease in the number of first-years [in OSCA].”
As a policy, OSCA reserves 100 of its membership slots for incoming first-years, since these students cannot be included in the spring lottery. This year, though, only 70 first-years opted to join OSCA at the start of their Oberlin careers. By contrast, OSCA has established first-year waitlists in past years to accommodate the demand of interested incoming students.
Matters added, “We have had an increase in the number of students joining at the beginning of sophomore year.” Still, the number of students joining, according to Matters, “is not enough to cover the overall membership drop.”
Membership will increase when the two-week freeze on alterations of housing and dining arrangements lifts. During these weeks, students are able to add their names to co-op waitlists but they cannot officially join the co-op until after the freeze ends.
At that time, a number of students who have decided since the beginning of the year to abandon CDS will move from the waitlists into co-ops. Even then, though, OSCA will be just shy of capacity.
College sophomore and Harkness’ Housing Loose-Ends Coordinator Avery Harrison provided a speculative explanation for the membership lull in his co-op, where there are 13 empty beds:
“[Perhaps] some of the negative aspects of Harkness’ reputation over the past years have caught up with it in the minds of the student population.
“To some degree you can feel the empty space,” he added, “but the great character and fun-loving nature of the people in the house more than makes up for it.”
The drop is a cause of worry among some students. College senior and long-time co-oper Rachel Weiss said: “It worries me that Oberlin students are maybe not as concerned as they once were about which industries their money is supporting and what they can accomplish as a community.”
Harrison remains optimistic about the popularity of OSCA:
“Any negativity that this lack of enrollment may have spread is going to be wiped out by some good, old-fashioned, cooperative OSCA love.”
Weiss urged interested students to try out the co-op system. “Joining OSCA means having fabulous meals in intimate and open communities. It has been an indispensable part of my Oberlin experience, and even seniors who have spent three years in CDS should try it out,” she said.
On September 17, the ResEd housing and dining freeze will end, bringing more co-opers into the fold. Students are welcome to add themselves to the OSCA waitlist at any time of the year.