Mike Dorsey’s article on the impending closure of the Davis Student Cooperative, one of three co-op houses on campus, presented the Aggie readership with as fair a picture of the situation as I can imagine. As a longtime resident of Davis, and one who has both close and intimate familiarity with the history of co-operatives in the town, I was pleased to see that Dorsey’s article stayed away from pushing an agenda for either side of the issue.
I employ the conceit of scare quotes there because I don’t really feel there is a divide here – unless people want there to be one.
Unfortunately, former DSC resident Derek Downey doesn’t seem prepared to uphold the principles of cooperation that once allowed him to enjoy a very convenient and, I will comfortably assume, affordable housing situation while a student at UC Davis. Rather, he seems more inclined to view the closure as an offensive strike against the co-ops and the co-op lifestyle.
Having lived in the Domes community myself, and having been involved with the Solar Community Housing Association houses in town, I’m well aware of how cost effective co-op housing can be, as well as how pleasant it can be to attend and participate in the nightly community dinners and regular work parties.
I’m also well aware of how quickly and assuredly, for some mind-boggling reason, co-op housing environments can fall into disrepair. While recent years have seen a considerable improvement and maintenance of the Domes and other houses on campus and around town, the SCHA has also lost the Homestead Housing Cooperative – which had long been a source of headache and strain on the organization due to poor management and minimal efforts at upkeep by the residents. I nearly moved into the community in 1997, but quickly backpedaled upon seeing the conditions of what, at the time, was only a one-year-old property.
Downey, from what I can tell, isn’t willing to accept that members of co-ops must not only cooperate with one another, but also with the parent organizations that make the co-op lifestyle possible. In the case of DSC, this means the office of Student Housing and, by extension, the Regents of the University of California. So the slippery slope implication that he presents by asking “why stop there?” toward the end of the article can only be taken seriously if campus co-op residents fail to uphold their end of the bargain. Or if the university administration engages in overt and willful efforts and forces closures for no good reason.
Co-op resident Sarah Raridon would also do well to recognize that the unique nature of a co-op is intentionally self-supporting, and this includes regular preventative care of the facilities. If the residents allow infrastructure to break down, repair and maintenance become more costly. Neither are mandated upgrades to be seen as spurious assaults on the co-op lifestyle. They are simply things that must be done if that lifestyle is to be preserved.
The university does not have an unlimited supply of funds to maintain the co-ops’ upkeep, regardless of how many residents are housed in them. If we lose one of the major houses on campus, that will certainly be a source of pain and loss for thousands of residents of Davis and alumni who have lived in and visited DSC over the years since it opened – myself included. But it does no good to view the situation as an us-against-them battle. With cooperation, we’re all in it together.