Off-Campus and A Few Stumbles

OSCA began to look outward at the turn of the decade and into the mid-eighties. It chose to join a national federation of student housing cooperatives, the North American Students of Cooperation (then called the North American Cooperative Society) after a visit from John Klein, the NASCO representative. Many OSCA members attended its Cooperative Management Training Institute in Ann Arbor the following fall to take courses, attend workshops, and listen to lectures from co-op activists from around the continent. In January of 1978, OSCA also became a member of the Federation of Ohio River Cooperatives, a co-op food warehouse centered in Columbus, Ohio. Their relationship would endow the OSCA Board with the consensus decision-making process and the membership with immensely popular (and salty) FORC tortilla chips. And in its first major move to disentangle itself with rent agreements from the College, OSCA decided to purchase Fuller House in 1985 (named after an old Oberlin president who served with distinctive faculty friction) using the three-decades worth of accumulated cash in its Building Fund.

An effort to establish an additional co-op came in fall of 1981, when OSCA submitted a proposal to the Housing and Dining Committee requesting that Talcott or Asia House be made into a dining only co-op for 110 students. Long waiting lists of over 350 students prompted OSCA to work towards this seventh co-op. Increasing tuition costs, decreasing financial aid, a diminishing number of campus jobs, and the financial savings that an additional co-op could offer to its members provided an equally strong incentive. The proposal, however, was defeated. Reasons for the defeat ranged from the complications that making Talcott a co-op would cause for French program dining and for Kosher co-op, to the recurrent fear that a seventh co-op would increase board bills for non-coopers.

OSCA, unfortunately, began to stutter and trip in the middle of the Reagan decade. Tank was closed as a living co-op at the end of the spring semester 1983 and Johnson House, which had housed a farm co-op on its second floor for many years, was designated a housing co-op to make up for some of the spaces lost in Tank. Johnson House Co-opers of the Tank diaspora ate across the street at Old Barrows. In 1987, OSCA was audited by the IRS with the discovery that financial records from the previous two years were missing and that the organization was on the verge of bankruptcy-OSCA nearly lost its tax-exempt status. It was a year of “a few tears, frazzled nerves, failed exams, and dropped honors” in the words of Hadley Boyd, OSCA President. But despite its near fiscal insolvency, OSCA also made the purchase of it’s second off-campus house Langston-Bliss the same year. Financial and administrative problems continued to fester and multiply in the OSCA body. All three corporate officers decided to resign halfway through the 1990-91 school year, leaving it to three volunteers to split the job of each officer position. A financial consultant from NASCO was brought in to assess the situation, and advised OSCA to hire a Financial manager.