Frequently Asked Questions (An Introduction to OSCA)

What is OSCA?

Answer: 

OSCA is a student-owned and student-operated non-profit corporation that provides at-cost housing and dining services to hundreds of students at Oberlin. The corporation is entirely separate from Oberlin College, but all member-owners of OSCA are Oberlin students.

What Does OSCA Stand For?

Answer: 

OSCA is an acronym for the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association. It is pronounced “AH-skuh”. If you hear people refer to “the co-ops,” they’re probably talking about OSCA.

Who Is a Member of OSCA?

Answer: 

615 Oberlin students—about 22% of campus—are members of OSCA each semester. 174 of these co-opers are in housing co-ops, meaning they eat, sleep, and live in co-ops. Most of our members only dine in OSCA, and live in either a college-run Residence Hall or off-campus.

What Makes a Co-operative?

Answer: 

A co-op is a business directly controlled by its members. Members are user-owners; they patronize the business but also own its earnings and assets equally. They control the co-op’s day-to-day operations, its finances, and its mission. OSCA is a housing and dining co-op; other types include food co-ops, housing co-ops, rural electric co-ops, and financial co-ops (credit unions).

What is OSCA’s Purpose?

Answer: 
  • To establish an organization to promote and develop cooperative living at Oberlin College in accordance with the Rochdale Cooperative principles so long as such activity is not inconsistent with the fundamental principles and policies of Oberlin College.

What are OSCA’s Projects?

Answer: 
  • Local foods: OSCA has established connections with local farmers. Whenever possible, co-ops purchase food from nearby farms, supporting area farmers rather than agribusiness.
  • Composting: OSCA composts as much food waste as possible.
  • Recycling: OSCA recycles glass, plastics, cardboard, metal, and paper.

What are Programmed Co-ops?

Answer: 

Third World Co-op (located in Baldwin, no affiliation to Third World House) is a special interest co-op, geared to serve specific needs that the other co-ops may not meet. Third World Co-op provides a safe space to people of color, international students, low-income students, and first generation students.

Is OSCA Student-Run?

Answer: 

When you hear that students run OSCA, it’s not just a slogan. Students do everything-long-term planning, member education, cooking, cleaning kitchens and bathrooms, ordering food, planning menus, managing finances, keeping track of membership lists, training new co-opers, and facilitating discussion. Every student who works in OSCA is a user-owner.

Do Students Save Money by Being in OSCA?

Answer: 

Most underclass students are required to live on-campus, and almost all students eat on campus. Because we are student-operated and at-cost, OSCA charges less than the College-run programs for both housing and dining. A student eating in OSCA instead of in Campus Dining Services saves thousands of dollars per year. Additionally students save even more if they live in OSCA.

How Do I Become a Member of OSCA?

Answer: 

Every spring about 1000 students sign up to be in OSCA the following year. Each person is assigned a random number. No one is given seniority, so membership in OSCA is equally accessible to every Oberlin College student. The lottery occurs in the spring for the following fall.

What Work Do Co-opers Do?

Answer: 

Each co-op has a workchart to organize the work of all of its members. In dining co-ops, each co-oper does 4-5 hours of volunteer work per week. Some co-opers are elected to positions (such as committee representatives, food buyers, bread bakers, and Directors of the Board), while others sign up for jobs on the workchart (such as cooking, cleaning, chopping vegetables, and soaking beans).

What is OSCA’s Relationship with the College?

Answer: 

OSCA rents its on-campus buildings from the College, so the primary relationship between Oberlin College and OSCA is a tenant- landlord relationship. OSCA works with the College, especially Residential Education and Dining Services, to insure that both tenant and landlord are upholding the rent contract, which is renegotiated every three years.

Can I Join You for a Meal?

Answer: 

If you know students in OSCA, it’s likely that you’ll get an invitation to a meal. If not, don’t hesitate to ask if you can visit their co-op. Guests are always welcome, and it doesn’t mean any extra work for co-opers, since they’re already cooking for dozens of people. You might want to plan on arriving a little early, so you can get a seat (and a plate) before food is served.

OSCA Statistics

Answer: 
  • OSCA’s budget is around $2.9 million per year.
  • OSCA houses 174 students, and feeds 601.
  • 20-25% of the student body is in OSCA.
  • OSCA is the second largest student co-operative in the country.
  • The town of Oberlin has more co-ops than any other American city, except for Berkeley.

I Want to Know More!

Answer: 

If you have questions about OSCA, or you want more information, you can call or visit the OSCA office. In the office you can also browse through the OSCA library, which has lots of information on OSCA as well as other co-operatives.

What are OSCA's Office Hours?

Answer: 

If you’re not sure exactly who you want to talk with, contact the OSCA Office between 12:00 and 4 PM, Monday through Thursday.

What Other Ways Can I Contact OSCA?

Answer: 

Campus mailing address: Wilder Hall Box 86
Telephone: (440) 775-8108
E-mail: osca@oberlin.edu

More ways to contact OSCA.