OSCA, College Negotiate Future of Old Barrows

Eliza Guinn

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OSCA employees returned from strike amid negotiations between the College and the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association that will likely decide the future of the Old Barrows Co-op.

“OSCA employees were on strike until we had a chance to meet with the Board of Directors. We met with the Board of Directors on February 21 to express our concerns and ended our strike,” OSCA Business Coordinator Kevin G. Gilfether said.

OSCA rents all of its buildings from the College, and moving or shutting down the Old Barrows Co-op has been a topic of discussion since 2011. The building is currently fit for living but will most likely be condemned within the next 20 years.

Representatives from the College have been holding meetings with Old Barrows’ members to determine the future of the co-op. OSCA held a caucus last week to create a forum-like environment in an attempt to eradicate confusion about the fate of Old Barrows.

Old Barrows houses 15 students and has 80 dining members; it is one of OSCA’s largest dining co-ops. Apprehension about closing Old Barrows stems from the potential decrease in OSCA’s membership. A major concern for the College and OSCA alike is the uneven distribution of Old Barrows’ 80 dining members between other co-ops that would increase space constraints and impose a strain on resources.

The College is also unsure of where the 15 students who live in Old Barrows would go, according to Rosenberg. Old Barrows’ housing currently serves as a safe space for women and transgender students.

If the co-op were to be completely dissolved or reduced only to dining services, the Edmonia Lewis Center for Women and Transgender People and Baldwin Cottage would be the only housing spaces specifically designated for women and transgender students.

Efforts are currently being made to ensure that students aren’t living and eating in an unsafe space, according to Steven Levin, an OSCA board representative. Members and College representatives are pushing for a decision to be made during this year’s rent contract negotiations between OSCA and the College.

According to Rosenberg, negotiations are still underway. It is unclear whether or not the building will be demolished, but it would be highly unlikely.

The College wasn’t available for comment. However, from her meetings with representatives from the College, Rosenberg was able to give information concerning what steps the school will take moving forward. The College’s current focus is removing students from the space.

“Unfortunately, things are really in flux right now,” Rosenberg said in an email to the Review. “It’s very unclear what’s going to happen, as negotiations are still actively underway. We certainly don’t have all the information, and I cannot pretend to be privy to all of Oberlin College’s motivations.”

The College’s final plans regarding the Old Barrows Co-op remain unclear.

 

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