Welcome, new College Houses members! Co-ops are a fun and exciting place to live, and there’s a few ins and outs you should know to get the most out of your co-op experience. Here’s a few basics to get you off to a strong start.
Each house has their own manual and set of rules for things like quiet hours, planning events, and consequences for not doing labor. Make sure to attend your house’s orientation, and ask for the manual if it isn’t provided.
The house rules are in addition to the broader Rules of Operations that cover the entire organization. The Rules of Operations, as well as house manuals, can be found on the member Google Drive accessible from the Member Portal (ask your officers for the password).
At the start of each term, most houses do “temp labor”. You will be able to sign up for labor shifts based on your availability for the first week or two. During this time, the Labor Coordinator at your house will be assembling a permanent labor schedule. Once permanent labor starts, most members will perform the same tasks each week.
Labor is a contractual obligation, and it is taken seriously. The Labor Coordinator will monitor the work being done around the house, and will write up or “no-show” anyone who seems to have skipped out. If this happens, the member will be able to attend a house meeting to explain their absence, and the house will either approve or dismiss the no-show. Members with approved no-shows will be expected to make up the time they missed, possibly including extra hours and/or fines. In extreme cases, labor violations can lead to eviction.
Even though labor is, literally, a chore, it can also be one of the best parts of the co-op experience. We hope you will treat your labor as a learning opportunity, and reach out to other members for help to learn relevant skills. It’s not uncommon for members to learn cooking, cleaning, organizational, and leadership skills from doing their labor.
If you have a maintenance issue in your room, or you observe an issue in another part of the building, your first step is to submit it to the Maintenance Form. This is the surest way to make sure the issue is documented and gets taken care of. As a co-op member, you are charged with being a good steward of your house. Many of our houses have been running for decades, and this is only possible with the help of members like you!
House Meetings and Member Responsibility
House meetings are where decisions are made that affect the house as a whole. House meetings are also the official channel to report information that can affect your membership. All houses have regular meetings, and you should become familiar with your house’s meeting schedule.
As a member, you have the right to vote on items at meetings of your house. Houses also require a certain minimum meeting attendance. As a member, you can also add items to the meeting agenda. This usually involves providing advance notice of your item in a public forum, such as a whiteboard or a house Facebook page.
Meetings can be intimidating to new members. They use a procedure similar to Robert’s Rules of Order, which many are unfamiliar with. Plus, sometimes issues being discussed involve co-op history that new members weren’t around for.
Despite this, we encourage every new member to attend meetings and participate. Whether a member is new or a co-op veteran, they have an equal right to shape their co-op through the house democracy. Don’t let your rights go to waste!
Here is a list of some key house officers that you are likely to meet in your first week at the co-op. Be sure to ask your officers if they have preferred times to be contacted for non-emergencies. (In any case, don’t bang on their door late at night!)
Director: Leads the officer corps in supporting all house operations. If you are ever unsure about which officer to talk to, you can always bring it to the director first. They also run elections and sit on the College Houses Board of Directors. At 21st Street Co-op, they are called the Trustee.
Membership Coordinator (MemCo): You’ve probably already met your MemCo! They manage application approvals, assign people to rooms, and coordinate move in and move out. They also can be a resource to help resolve conflicts between members, but please keep in mind they are not trained mediators, and they cannot resolve more serious disputes (if those arise, the MemCo is likely to refer you to staff).
Labor Coordinator (“Labor Czar”): Assigns labor to members based on their preferences and skills, but mostly based on members’ schedules. If you need to reschedule your labor, or if you must miss a labor shift, this is the officer to contact.
Kitchen Manager: Any questions about kitchen operations, equipment, or health and safety should go to the Kitchen Manager. Questions about the food should go to the Food Buyer and/or Menu Planner
Maintenance Coordinator: The first line of defense when things break and need fixing! Maintenance requests sent to the Maintenance Form can be routed to your Maintenance Coordinator, or you can contact them directly.