Earlier this month, students circulated a petition to bring a new co-op to campus. This echoed the efforts of a similar petition distributed in 2014 that called for a new vegetarian co-op. Co-ops, seen as an economical alternative to dining options such as eating clubs, have become increasingly popular in recent years. In light of this petition, the Editorial Board calls for the University to provide the space and resources for the creation of a new co-op.
Currently, the University’s four co-ops — 2 Dickinson Street Co-Op, Brown Co-Op, Real Food Co-Op and International Food Co-Op — provide students with an alternative dining option that includes several unique benefits. First, co-ops are popular for their affordability. In a co-op, students can pay as little as $550 per semester. Compared to $6240 per year for an unlimited dining hall meal plan and even higher prices for eating clubs, co-ops give students a more affordable option. In addition, co-ops foster a sense of community since members regularly cook and eat together. Compared to large eating clubs or residential colleges, the relatively small size of a co-op facilitates interaction between its members. Furthermore, co-ops are an attractive option for upperclassmen who want to join a community, but who are excluded from eating clubs due to the selective bicker process or the high cost. Finally, co-ops like 2D that cater to vegetarians and vegans give more options to those with specific meal preferences.
For all these reasons, co-ops have become increasing popular. Currently, all of the co-ops have extensive waitlists. And while the University should address this demand, there are a few drawbacks that must be noted. First, the University must find a suitable space for a new co-op. On one hand, an off-campus co-op like 2D would require the University to purchase or rent property. This raises the question of funding and whether students would be expected to financially contribute. On the other hand, an on-campus co-op like Brown would require the conversion of an existing kitchen space or the construction of a new one. Few kitchens on campus currently have the seating and storage capacity to accommodate a co-op. Furthermore, since many residential colleges have a limited number of kitchens, the University would be taking this resource away from other students.
These factors, however, do not outweigh the benefits of establishing a new co-op. First and foremost is the large student demand for an additional co-op. Not only are there long waitlists for each of the co-ops, but also, in the first two weeks of the petition, the organizers gathered more than 300 signatures. By establishing a new co-op, the University can accommodate the needs of hundreds of students. Furthermore, a new co-op may also take pressure off of the room draw for Spelman Hall. Every year, the Spelman draw is a popular option for students who want the convenience of their own kitchen. Yet, the limited number of rooms in Spelman leaves many upperclassmen without a convenient way to cook their meals. Thus while property values in Princeton may be high, a new co-op would be a valuable investment for the community.
The Editorial Board urges the University to either purchase an off-campus building or repurpose an existing space for a new co-op. As an affordable and inclusive dining option, a new co-op would further the University in its goal to make campus a welcoming space for all students. While it may be more financially feasible to repurpose or construct a kitchen space on campus, an off-campus building like 2D would accommodate more people than a kitchen as well as give students a place to live, hang out and socialize in.
TheEditorial Boardis an independent body and decides its opinions separately from the regular staff and editors of The Daily Princetonian. The Board answers only to its Chair, the Opinion Editor and the Editor-in-Chief.