Open Letter: Co-op Savings Essential

Bob Weiner, Class of 1969

Dear President Marvin Krislov:

You must be flooded with everything, but as a co-Clinton administration official with you, I do want you to know that I’m an old Oberlin co-oper (I was the system treasurer!), and I agree that the savings for co-op members need to stay to help them with college. They helped me in a critical way. My father, who was covering my tuition, died between my freshman and sophomore year, and my uncle picked up the family wish to get me through school with tuition. But that was it for money. So I joined a co-op my sophomore year. I had to pay for all expenses other than tuition and room, and the savings from being in a dining co-op — and working to earn them, first as the meat buyer and then as the overall elected treasurer for the co-ops — made it possible for me to remain at Oberlin. This was my equivalent of “working through college” to cover expenses for my books and meals, as well as clothing, entertainment, travel back home and summer between semesters when I did the Oberlin summer program one year in France. If I had not had the financial savings from the co-op, I would possibly not have been able to afford Oberlin.

Also, the benefits from the coop helped politicize me to where you and I landed. I would not have joined the co-op and learned my political value system of helping people of lower incomes save money (and opposed the war, etc.) without those amazing conversations around the Pyle and Harkness lunch and dinner tables and after each meal. And, of course, if you take away or reduce the financial benefit of co-op dining, you’ll either have to make it up dollar-for-dollar a different way, or simply lose the people. The answer is to go on a major push for endowment — on that I totally agree. But don’t take the money from students! You know from your national perspective that the U.S. has already fallen from first to fourteenth for college completion because of college costs. Oberlin should stay a leader in helping students go and finish, and taking the co-op benefits away would do the opposite.

So please do what you can to reverse that initial bizarre thinking to effectively take away or reduce the financial benefits of co-ops. That is the whole point of co-ops! That’s what the co-ops stand for — and it has meant a great deal to me over a lifetime of working in Congress and the White House and the National Press Club.

–Bob Weiner, OC ’69