OSCA Greatly Misunderstood by Non-OSCA Students

When I first decided to sign up for a co-op, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I knew that I would be responsible for cooking some of my meals and cleaning up after said cooking, but I knew nothing about the bureaucratic and legislative aspects of being in a co-op. It wasn’t until I joined Pyle Inn co-op at the beginning of this school year that I learned what I was getting myself into. 

With our hand signs during discussions, terms for pieces of equipment, and general culture, from the outside the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association definitively looks like a cult. There’s an air of mystery surrounding OSCA and how it functions. What is a Hobart? What about a DLEC or KitchCo? Why are we always talking about llamas? But beyond these questions about specific co-op rituals and terms, students who aren’t OSCA members lack a surface-level understanding of how the organization works. Just last week, the Review published an article (“Old Barrows, Brown Bag Co-ops to Remain Closed” The Oberlin Review, March 11, 2022) that called the now-closed Fairchild co-op a housing and dining co-op, but it is widely known by students in OSCA that Fairchild, also known as Fairkid, was a dining-only co-op until it was closed in March 2020. In fall 2020, it was reopened as College-operated dining. Prior to the 2021–2022 school year, the building operated as a traditional residence hall, but it now serves as a first-year dorm. 

Another co-op that has not been in operation since the shutdown in March 2020 is the Brown Bag co-op. Brown Bag allowed students living off campus or in Village Housing to pick up groceries and prepare food in their own kitchens. The College does not offer a similar alternative dining option, which greatly limits the abilities of students living in Village or off-campus housing to become independent and cook for themselves. 

Oberlin requires all students to be on a meal plan. Even the smallest and least expensive meal plan is more expensive than OSCA, not to mention the fact that the cost per meal swipe is significantly higher for smaller plans. Unfortunately, OSCA is no longer as affordable an option as it could be. There is currently a policy in place that removes the amount students can save by joining OSCA from their financial aid packages, though OSCA is taking steps to counteract this problem. 

On a more lighthearted note, I would like to offer some answers to common questions and misconceptions about OSCA.

Firstly, we eat more than rice and beans. Today, we had cheesy pasta bake and tofu! We also have granola, bread, and lots of other tasty baked goods. 

The Hobart is what we call our lovely industrial dishwasher, nicknamed after the manufacturing company. Not too exciting. 

A DLEC is a Dining Loose-Ends Coordinator. Each co-op elects two at the beginning of the semester. To quote one of Pyle’s DLECs, College third-year Sammy Siegel, “The job of a DLEC is mostly to lead discussions and elections and to do anything else that needs to be done around the co-op.” 

And as for the llamas? Well, the llama is a hand symbol made in OSCA to propose an idea during discussion that will be voted on. It originated as a joke between friends in Harkness, and eventually spread to the other co-ops as a standard discussion procedure.