U. to charge co-ops new $50 fee per member beginning next semester
All co-op members will be charged a $50 fee paid to the University beginning next semester, a result of a recommendation made by the University’s Priorities Committee, which crafts the University’s budget, and approved by the University’s Board of Trustees in January. Administrators said the increase in fees will help pay for the services the University provides the co-ops, but co-op leaders countered that they had not been consulted before the decision was made.
The University provides exclusive use of kitchen space and dining facilities for the three co-ops recognized by the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students: International Food Co-op in Laughlin Hall, Brown Co-op in Brown Hall and 2 Dickinson Street Co-op. The University owns all three of these buildings and also provides cleaning services, furnishings and funds for facilities maintenance and renovations for these spaces.
Currently, the co-ops do not pay the University any money for the use of its services, but once the dues increase comes into effect, they will be required to pay the University $50 per member each semester. Members of the Priorities Committee deferred comment to University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua.
International Food Co-op co-president Dean Wang ’13 first learned of the dues increase last June, when he received an email from Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students Maria Flores-Mills, the University’s liaison with the co-ops. Wang quickly contacted fellow co-president Yuan Chang Leong ’13 and scheduled a meeting with Flores-Mills.
According to Flores-Mills, the fee increase was a decision of the Priorities Committee and she was simply passing down what was told to her in January.
"We made it clear that we were not exactly happy, but we understood that she was only enforcing the decisions of the Priorities Committee," Wang said of the meeting.
According to Vice President for University Services Chad Klaus, the University will continue to subsidize a portion of the co-ops’ operating costs, though he declined to provide the specific amount. The rest of this operating cost, he said, would be met with the new dues from co-op members.
Before the fee increased, IFC and Brown charged its members $600 per semester while 2D charged $500. Currently, IFC has 21 members, Brown has 25 members and 2D has 47.
Wang said he agreed with this reasoning but did not know why the fees are $50 specifically.
Klaus said $50 per student per semester was chosen by the Priorities Committee to be fair for both the co-ops and the University.
"We were looking for a number that would be least punitive but still be substantive enough to help toward the subsidy," Klaus said.
Brown Co-op president Daniel Velasco ’13 said he thought the Priorities Committee should have consulted the co-ops before making the decision.
"First off, there was no discussion,” he said. “If this fee is something they think is a logical fee, what are the Priorities Committee's reasons for it? We want their side of the story as well.”
2D member Maia Ten Brink ’13 said the fee increase would significantly affect her co-op.
"It felt like a big deal for us,” Ten Brink said. “$50 per semester is a 10 percent increase in dues. We pride ourselves on trying to keep food costs low. We want to make sure when we spend money we are spending it wisely. We just want to find out where our money is going.”
2D member Carlyn Cook ’13 said the co-ops are not blaming the administration, but hoping that the future can focus on more communication between co-ops and the administration.
"We just want to meet with the relevant administrators and have friendly conversations to understand what is going on and to foster a little better communication with them," Cook said.
The Real Food Co-op, which is affiliated with Mathey College, is not recognized by ODUS and therefore will not be charged this fee.
Clarification: This article has been updated to reflect that members of the Priorities Committee deferred comment to University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua.