The Oberlin Review

AccessCo Position Must Have More Job Transparency

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Even an organization like the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association, where students handle most of the management and regulation, still reflects many of our social and societal problems. One of them is about challenging authority. OSCA has at least one Accessibility Coordinator per co-op. Although AccessCos are all students, they establish their authority in a way that is completely mysterious to most OSCA members. Most people have no idea what specific work they are doing, and I found it extremely complicated and burdensome to challenge their authority because of this.

Last fall, I was one of the Keep Cottage Dining Loose End Coordinators — someone who facilitates discussions and answers questions involving elections, accessibility, and policy. At the beginning, the other DLEC and I needed to facilitate the discussion to elect two Accessibility Coordinators. There was something about this process that baffled me: The job description says we need to elect two people, but each person gets full credit. For those of you who might not be familiar with the co-op system, as long as you live in a co-op like Keep, you need to do four hours of cooking shifts and a one-hour crew shift; getting a full credit means that the people who receive full credit from their elected positions do not have to work the four-hour shift. To me, having two people working eight hours in total each week to deal with accessibility concerns is a complete overestimation of the workload.

So I asked the previous two AccessCos to tell us more about what they typically do each week. They claimed that AccessCo is a very important position, and they think that full-credit is legitimate. The answer was so opaque that I still had no idea what they really did besides merely speaking about accessibility. I looked at everyone else, and they all seemed OK with that ambiguous answer, except my friend, who later told me “That answer was bulls**t.” Eventually, we elected two AccessCos at Keep who both received full credit.

At the beginning of the spring semester, Keep needed to elect AccessCos again. This time I did not say anything or raise any doubts, because just like last semester, nobody would agree with my claim. To my surprise, someone else asked the question about whether we should really give them full credit, and the previous AccessCos again stated that the position required a lot of work — still a vague answer with no detailed explanation. Now we have two AccessCos, and one of them is last semester’s.

The day after the election, the AccessCos posted their contact information and weekly office hours schedule and sent an email reminding people to create a more accessible space. That was the only email we have received. Today, when I tried to go to the office hours that were supposed to happen at the corner of the lounge at Keep, no one was there.

It is true that AccessCos might do some work behind the scenes, but again, Keep has two AccessCos. This means that two people are working a total of eight hours just for accessibility issues, and nobody feels weird about it?

A friend of mine told me that as a former Housing Loose Ends Coordinator who was trained to provide support to co-op members, including accessibility support, he held office hours every week; however, nobody ever came to talk to him. Furthermore, the HLEC is a paid position because their workload is heavier than the non-paid positions, such as the AccessCos. With this in mind, it seems even less likely that AccessCos actually work a full eight hours every week.

I could not tolerate this anymore, so the day before I wrote this article, I sent an anonymous note to our AccessCos requesting that they write a report that is similar to OSCA’s stipend report — a kind of report that is purposefully vague and only cites the amount of hours spent doing specific tasks. Hours later, I was told that they could not do this because of confidentiality concerns, and they needed to contact all-OSCA AccessCo for advice.

When I again restated that I just wanted them to follow the format of the stipend report, they still refused to do it. Ironically, all-OSCA AccessCo — a paid position in OSCA — never refused to write a stipend report for confidentiality reasons, and now Keep AccessCos use the word “confidentiality” as an excuse to refuse to give any more information about their job — refusing even to write an opaque report which wouldn’t use any specific names.

It is almost impossible to raise concerns about some co-op positions, especially positions like AccessCo that hold the moral high ground of “accessibility.” As an individual who wants to challenge that authority, you must be prepared to spend a lot of your time, effort, and even emotional labor to voice your concerns. Challenging the legitimacy of AccessCo could be easily interpreted by other people as challenging the idea of accessibility, which makes people think that you don’t care about it. Eventually, this structural repression may prevent people from further expressing opinions in the co-op.

OSCA publicly states that it cares about accessibility, but it only applies the idea to particular aspects. It is unmistakable that OSCA provides a good place for people who have dietary restrictions, but this creates an illusion that OSCA cares about all parts of accessibility. When it comes to other more intangible accessibility concerns, OSCA has not done much work. I still could not believe how hard it is to just tell people that I think AccessCos at Keep shouldn’t get full credit, and I am also very shocked to see how the AccessCos have used those vague claims about confidentiality as justification to not give me information about the number of hours they work. There is a huge power imbalance between the co-op AccessCos as an authority and me as an individual who does not hold an elected position.

When I applied to serve as an HLEC for Keep several weeks ago, my former-HLEC friend told me that the secret of getting the job is to talk about accessibility all the time during the interview. I did, and I got the job. Some people have already realized how to use the discourse of accessibility to win the game in OSCA, and OSCA completely buys it.

OSCA still understands accessibility in a very superficial way. OSCA members think that having an Accessibility Committee and AccessCos in each co-op is enough, but in fact, it only makes the space sound accessible. When I challenged the two previous AccessCos about the credit they get, there were also other people supporting the AccessCos’ assertions. People thought I was giving the AccessCos a hard time. But when I asked those people if they knew what AccessCos actually did, they also had no idea, but that the position must be absolutely crucial to the co-op because they deal with issues of accessibility. It is so ridiculous to me that people blindly believe the discourse of accessibility given by the previous AccessCos. There are only a few people at Keep who have figured out what’s going on and want to challenge the authorities in the co-op. We all eventually choose to be silent because we don’t want to spend more time, effort, and emotional labor to ask people to open their eyes and see the truth.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

5 Comments

5 Responses to “AccessCo Position Must Have More Job Transparency”

  1. Hannah on April 27th, 2018 5:44 PM

    OSCA accesscos do critical work. They cannot tell you exactly what they do each day to the letter in order to protect the privacy of the people they serve. While the needs of the co-op vary week to week, it’s not uncommon for a crisis to take more time than even the 4 hours they receive. They also do a crew each week in addition to this, like nearly every other OSCAn. I have benefited from accesscos in a myriad of ways in my two years in OSCA; in the absence of a nutrition coordinator (a frequent occurrence in my experience) they help people with allergies and other food access issues get their needs met and serve as a proxy to keep those with disabilities and other barriers to food access from having to make advocating for themselves a full time job . They have time consuming interactions with head cooks when their practices pose barriers to everyone being fed (the whole point of a dining co-op!) This article’s claim that the position is unnecessary is like saying we don’t need a fire department because your own house has never been on fire. Transparency is important but I feel you should have taken more time to allow the accesscos to respond before writing this article. I respect your view but heavily disagree!

  2. Carson Li on April 27th, 2018 9:23 PM

    Hey! Thanks for the comment, good point but I don’t think you really address my concerns about AccessCo. Let me break down your sentence and comment on it:

    1. “They cannot tell you exactly what they do each day to the letter in order to protect the privacy of the people they serve.”

    Yes, but why All-OSCA AccessCo has to write a stipend report? I’m not asking for a specific name, I’m just asking for a report such as:
    4/27 Office Hour 1h
    4/28 Work on food accessibility 1.5h
    4/29 Talk with people 2h

    Will a report like this also violate people’s privacy? I just want a thing that Keep AccessCos can show me what they have done to the co-op. Like as a future HLEC, I can tell you I submitted a lot of work orders to fix Keep’s facilities like we got a new shower head because I asked the facility to change it. I didn’t see the two AccessCos use their full credit to make any substantial change to Keep.

    2. “it’s not uncommon for a crisis to take more time than even the 4 hours they receive. They also do a crew each week in addition to this”

    This is a theoretical claim: we think that AccessCo has to deal with crisis, but how many people really reach out to them when they have a crisis? If I have a huge crisis, and I did, several times, I went to see my psychiatrist and the Oberlin counseling center, I won’t go to AccessCo because they are not professionally trained to deal with any huge crisis.

    3. “I have benefited from accesscos in a myriad of ways in my two years in OSCA; in the absence of a nutrition coordinator (a frequent occurrence in my experience) they help people with allergies and other food access issues get their needs met and serve as a proxy to keep those with disabilities and other barriers to food access from having to make advocating for themselves a full time job.”

    That is great that you get actual help! But most people I talked to don’t feel like that they get any help from AccessCos. Have you done any real interviews with people about their opinions towards AccessCos in the coop? Several minutes after I forwarded this article to my facebook, people messaged me and saying that they feel the same way as me, isn’t it a big problem for OSCA to think about?

    Yes technically they help people with allergies, sounds very great, but if you carefully think about it, head cooks’ responsibility is to take care of those dietary restrictions, so do any AccessCo or nutrition coordinator talk to head cooks every single meal to remind them of accessiblity? No! Most AccessCos just collect people’s dietary restrictions and then give it to head cooks, that’s it. What about the rest of the semester? Do they also need those four hours to do anything important to help people with allergies? Please stop think that they deal with accessibilities so they need a lot of time. No! They don’t! I didn’t see any work they have done in the later of the semester. Also, how do you argue against the fact that Keep AccessCos didn’t even show up to office hours and didn’t send any further emails about accessibility?

    By the way, I also mentioned that Accessibility doesn’t just include food stuff, what about living space? As a POC, have AccessCos been trained how to deal with POC stuff? I took peer helping class before and there is a big part of dealing with POC concerns, have those AccessCos also been trained? if they are not professional enough, how can you make sure that they will provide effective support to people?

    4. “They have time consuming interactions with head cooks when their practices pose barriers to everyone being fed (the whole point of a dining co-op!)”

    Uh, I know it’s a whole coop, but remember not all people need a lot of dietary accommodation. Many people don’t have any dietary restrictions. And even though they have time consuming interactions with head cooks, think about it, how long does it even take? This is the rhetoric used by those AccessCos, sounding like a lot of work, but it’s really not. Talk with one head cook might only takes 10 minutes, but again, Keep has two AccessCos getting eight hours in total! That’s a lot of time!

    5. “This article’s claim that the position is unnecessary is like saying we don’t need a fire department because your own house has never been on fire. “

    Sorry nope, this article’s claim is this position needs more transparency. I want to propose two AccessCos at two, or one at full.

    “Transparency is important but I feel you should have taken more time to allow the accesscos to respond before writing this article.”

    I have raised my concern since last semester! Notice that the main point of this article is also to use political thinking to think about how difficult to raise concerns in OSCA. It is so difficult to challenge the authority, and it seems to me that you are saying that the authority shouldn’t be challenged because they deal with Accessibility.

    Also, please distinguish between an illusion of accessibility and the real one. The police station in each city creates a sense of security, so when you are walking on the street you feel safe. But actually, is it? Are you that much sure that you are safe walking on the street at night just because we have a police station? Same here, all of those accessibility institutions in OSCA gives people a sense of nice accessible environment, but why there are still so many people like me complaining about these issues and we eventually choose to be silent?

  3. Grace on April 28th, 2018 5:28 PM

    Here’s my time log:
    1 hr – accessibility committee meeting
    1 hr – looking through the anonymous google forms we have for proxy statements, etc
    2 hr – responding to emails or working one on one

    Also, I was planning my P&O workshop all semester, which took up time. I also had to commit time to hosting the workshop.

    Additionally, I would like to point out that Head Cooks get 3 hours, although they are only required to be in the kitchen for two hours for the cook shift. While this time is *supposed* to be use for prep/planning, most head cooks say that it’s really just used up by the fact that head cooking is way more stressful than just showing up to be on the shift. The AccessCo is definitely a job that can infringe on your personal wellbeing, and sometimes that extra hour is used to meet your own accessibility needs.

    You make a lot of other pretty faulty claims in your article, but I really don’t feel the need to pull the move you did above and go sentence by sentence critiquing you. It’s most ironic that you just said “we eventually choose to be silent” when you wrote a whole article trashing the position.

    Your article would certainly be strengthened had you also presented some ideas to help fix the issues you raised. I hope you can understand why this article is incredibly offensive to those of us who take accessibility seriously and know that our work pays off. You can be salty and put your effort in churning out ineffective articles, but I’m gonna keep doing the work i know is useful! (:

  4. Grace on April 28th, 2018 5:34 PM

    Oh! Oh! Also – there’s two AccessCos in case someone needs to raise an issue about one of the AccessCos and therefore can only go to one of them, or someone just doesn’t feel comfortable approaching one of them for whatever reason. There’s two AccessCos for increased accessibility!

  5. Hannah TB on April 29th, 2018 10:15 AM

    Just to clarify, the original Hannah commenter was not me.

Please keep all comments respectful and relevant. The Review does not allow comments containing profanity, foul language, personal attacks, hate speech, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are only published at the discretion of a moderator.




Established 1874.