Harkness opened in 1950 as a women’s dorm, and in September of 1967, Harkness became the fourth Oberlin housing and dining co-op. During its first semester as a co-op, Harkness’s flag was stolen by Tank and since then, Harkness has held a pivotal role in the co-op wars. Harkness’s intense and often lengthy discussions have led to diverse and unique policies, some more successful than others. In 1979, Harkness became the first Oberlin co-op to use consensus, a decision process that soon spread throughout OSCA. The very next year, Harkness voted for the first time to use anarchy as its system of government, a decidedly less successful venture. Also in 1979, Harkness created the Contraceptive Co-op, which eventually morphed into today’s Sexual Information Center. In the mid-90’s, Harkness became the first OSCA co-op to have an elected head cook system.
Now, as for the past many years, Harkness is a vegetarian co-op with vegan options at every meal. Despite discussions in many recent semesters of the possibility of lines or other more humane systems of serving food, Harkness still tends to mob tables at meal times, an exciting and not altogether unenjoyable experience.
Table mobbing can be seen in all its glory—or horror—at Harkness’s popular Friday Pizza Nights. At Pizza Night, one can expect to find lots of great vegan and vegetarian pizza, desserts and people from all over campus drawn to this popular event. Pizza cooks typically spend almost all of their Fridays preparing for each Pizza Night. Most of the pizzas are even round!
Harkness’s special meals tend to be more extravagant and wackier-themed than other co-ops’, with a strong dress-up tradition. Harkness also frequently votes to lend its space to performing arts groups, both musical and theatrical.
Harkness also houses 64 people. Being the only dorm on campus without a communal television, Harkness has developed a wide range of activities to keep its residents amused. Music is a common presence in the lounge, be it someone banging on the piano, a klezmer band practicing, or an ad-hoc dance party.
— Janet Ackerman and Jym Sandberg