Key OSCA Committee Has a Lot on its Plate
In the coming weeks, Oberlin Student Cooperative Association’s newly chartered Long-Range Planning Committee will meet officially for the first time in years to discuss topics ranging from the organization’s next rent contract to the possible closure of Old Barrows Co-op. The upcoming meetings will be an experiment for all involved.
The new committee would like to change OSCA’s focus to look beyond the single semester or school year. Currently, co-op policies are discussed and voted upon at the beginning of every term and revised continually throughout the term. Turnover in the organization is high, since even the most enthusiastic co-opers must graduate eventually.
These factors render OSCA’s long-term objectives fuzzy at best. Dan Gessner, College senior and OSCA-College Liaison explained, “OSCA has a hard time with institutional memory.”
The LRPC will discuss what they feel is important for OSCA in the long-term, particularly focusing on the rent contract. This contract is renewed every three years but surfaces in policy-making discussions and board meetings every semester.
More specifically, the LRPC will discuss the future of Old Barrows. According to Gessner, the College has requested that OSCA begin “decommissioning” the co-op, meaning they want it closed down in the near future.
The overall goal of the committee, said Gessner, is “to get a sense of what the membership wants out of OSCA.” The LRPC will not set any policies but instead record in writing the suggestions and concerns of committee members regarding the organization’s future functioning.
“We will look at things that aren’t working out that well, and we will look at how we could deal with them or avoid [such problems] in the future,” explained OSCA Housing Coordinator and College junior John Siddall.
Some people are not convinced that this new committee will be entirely beneficial. In OSCA’s October publication, OSCA Education Coordinator and College junior Matt O’Connell expressed his worries that the LRPC “is just giving people who already have OSCA power more OSCA power and creating a secret shadow bureaucracy.”
He is concerned that the LRPC, made up of members of OSCA’s General Management Team and elected representatives from the individual co-ops, will centralize power within the organization. He imagined a hypothetical situation in which a board representative from an individual co-op “has problems with a [certain] proposal.” If those concerns clash with what the LRPC has written, “that board rep will probably be seen as short-sighted and [will] hear their voice silenced.”
Siddall does not share this worry. “We aren’t expanding anybody’s power,” he said. “We will help open up the dialogue to the members — we just talk.”
Gessner also emphasized that the LRPC will suggest rather than dictate: “The documents we produce will say, ‘Here’s what we think is important, and here are some steps that might be useful in achieving that.’”
As a solution to his particular concerns about concentration of power, O’Connell urges more co-opers to step up and voice what they themselves think is important for OSCA. “Get involved,” he writes. “By being involved more, your voice gets heard, and you help OSCA run better.”
Gessner clarified again the point of the meetings: “The important thing about OSCA is autonomy, and we don’t want to prevent future generations from figuring things out for themselves. We want to give them an idea of what we faced and how we dealt with it.”