OSCA Pushes for Pausing Aid Changes


Photo by Rick Yu, Photo editor

Students protest against the administration’s new housing, dining and OSCA financial aid policies last Friday. The protest was one of many actions in opposition to the changes, leading to today’s meeting between OSCA officers and the administration.

Melissa Harris , Editor-in-Chief

Oberlin Student Cooperative Associa­tion officers met with administrators today to negotiate the administration’s recent policy changes concerning housing and dining for next academic year. OSCA Presi­dent and College junior Tara Wells said officers’ main goal at the meeting was to have the administration withdraw the changes until next semester, when students will have more time to negotiate the policy’s parameters since many are currently busy with finals preparations.

Outgoing Vice President of Finance and Administration Mike Frandsen an­nounced a 2.8 percent tuition increase and changes in student dining and housing op­tions that increase minimum costs and cut the amount of need-based financial aid to OSCA members last Tuesday. However, the only finalized changes are that all in­coming non-OSCA first-years must pay flat rates for dining and housing, with a 300-meal per semester plan ticketed at $7,990 and Residential Education housing at $7,872. According to Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo, the cuts concerning OSCA — which currently reduce need-based financial aid by $1,000 for students dining in co-ops and by $2,000 for those living in them — are just proposed, there­fore negotiable.

In light of this, OSCA officers met with Raimondo Tuesday to plan for today’s meeting with her, Frandsen, Director of Financial Aid Rob Reddy, OSCA Business Coordinator Sundance, OSCA Financial Manager Linda Doan and various OSCA board representatives.

“We talked about how the conversation has gone so far, how we can make a clear agenda for Friday’s meeting so that we can make sure that the conversation is actually making progress and not just kind of spin­ning,” Raimondo said. “I think [the OSCA officers] are doing a really great job at lead­ing the conversation for OSCA.”

OSCA Membership Secretary and dou­ble-degree sophomore Rory O’Donoghue said that the meeting with Raimondo was productive for initiating a dialogue be­tween the administration and OSCA.

“We candidly brainstormed tactics for an effective meeting with Mike Fransden [sic],” O’Donoghue wrote in an email to the Review. “We made headway on our differing understandings of the purported ‘equity’ of these proposed changes — we feel like this is an institutionally equalizing move that exacerbates inequity for indi­vidual students trying to navigate the sys­tem, which is a viewpoint that previously the higher-ups we’re working with didn’t share, but Meredith now understands and seems to agree with our look.”

Wells highlighted the goals she and the OSCA officers set for today’s meeting.

“We want any discussions on policy changes to be put on hold for now, since they’ve been presented at such an unfair time for students, with finals coming up and everything and end-of-semester tran­sition to summer,” Wells said. “I guess we’re grateful that it was just a proposal this time around, since a similar fiasco happened three years ago, and that time it was more like implementing the changes without telling anyone, so this time I guess they did technically propose it before putting it out there. But we still should have been in­formed way sooner that the conversation was happening. It feels the conversation should be started from the beginning with all the appropriate people involved.”

Following Tuesday’s meeting with Raimondo, the senior administration re­leased a letter to students via email yes­terday to clarify the proposed changes, encourage OSCA to explore strategies to help make Oberlin affordable and defend the flexibility of the 300-meal plan. The email explains that as the baseline num­ber of meals change, net financial aid stu­dents receive will be adjusted accordingly, shrinking the gross $1,000 and $2,000 aid reductions.

“Next year, new students who dine with OSCA and receive full financial sup­port from the college will actually receive $460 more than they would under the cur­rent plan,” the email states. “Those who both live and dine with OSCA and receive full financial support from the college will receive $540 less than they would under the current plan. Because more students dine in OSCA than both live and dine, new students who join OSCA will collectively receive more aid dollars from the college next year than they would under the cur­rent plan.”

The administration also suggested in the email that OSCA change its own rates based on income.

“OSCA sets it own rates. We are aware that OSCA has policies including grant awards, and we would encourage OSCA and its members to continue to explore strategies such as increased need-based financial aid or sliding scale charges to protect its affordability. These are the same questions facing the College, and as non-profit educa­tional organizations, we need to share the responsibility for navigating the challenges posed by income inequality and rising costs.”

Despite the administration’s statement, O’Donoghue said that the administration’s initial communication was poorly handled.

“The changes have been delivered to, rather than ne­gotiated with, OSCA, in a way that directly violates claus­es contractually agreed to by the College in OSCA’s rent contract,” O’Donoghue wrote in an email to the Review. “It’s significant that several years of silence came out of the last time this happened, after which the College, in determining that many students involved in or aware of the mass protests last time have graduated, pulled the same manipulative maneuver. It’s a longterm fight where OSCA and students as a whole are at a significant disad­vantage, but we’ve pulled through before, and we’ll pull through again.”

Leading up to today’s meeting, officers and members of OSCA have taken a variety of steps in response to the administration’s proposed changes. Last Wednesday, OSCA held an organizing and strategizing meeting to out­line their initial plan of action, which included informing prospective students visiting during a major admissions event last weekend about the new policies; helping revi­talize student group Defending Oberlin Financial Acces­sibility; reaching out to parents and alumni; and emailing and calling senior administration and the offices of the deans, Financial Aid and Admissions.

Wells said that while today’s meeting focused on OS­CA-specific demands, OSCA stands with the greater stu­dent body in challenging the administration’s flat rates for ResEd and College Dining Services.

“I think [OSCA and the greater student body] support each other, but there’s the very specific OSCA being af­fected by the financial aid policy, and then the one where OSCA has no say in the housing and dining that ResEd chooses,” Wells said. “But we definitely endorse the stu­dent body at large in disapproving of those changes.”

OSCA, DOFA and Students Building Community Pow­er co-sponsored a petition circulated online. The petition called for no flat-rate housing and dining plans, no cuts to financial aid for OSCA members and for explicit student involvement in all matters that directly affect students. Wells said DOFA members handed in the petition and its signatures to the administration Monday.