Co-op conference held in Berkeley over weekend

Matt Miller/Staff

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Members of about 40 student housing cooperatives from 10 cities along the West Coast discussed struggles, participated in workshops and shared skills at the West Coast Co-op Conference this weekend, hosted by the Berkeley Student Cooperative.

The conference attracted over 100 cooperative residents from Oregon to Santa Barbara, according to WestCo coordinator Elaina Marshalek. Participants shared their experiences in their cooperative model and discussed the problems and strategies they have used within the co-op.

Three workshop blocks during the conference focused on subjects ranging from communication to internet technology in the co-ops. Molly Reagh, a UC Davis alumna, said she was planning to discuss the Domes - a UC Davis-owned cooperative that is set to be shut down this summer because the domes are deteriorating - in the fundraising section.

"It's kind of the exact point of cooperatives - to share experience and to have everyone come together to share ideas," Reagh said.

At around 11 a.m., participants gathered in the Casa Zimbabwe house to engage in skill-share "room-to-rooms." As Kanye West and Calvin Harris blasted on a stereo, co-op residents twirled on poles in a Pole Dancing for Beginners skill-share while smaller groups painted a small mural on a table outside and others twisted on turquoise strips of fabric in a demonstration of circus arts.

On the other side of campus, a small group of about 14 individuals gathered in a common room to discuss power, oppression and class stratification with Kiran Nigam, a workshop trainer from the Anti-Oppression Resource and Training Alliance.

Holly Bartow, a UC Berkeley junior and Hoyt Hall resident who attended the training, said it gave her strategies to deal with problems within her co-op and that having the training could lead to a stronger dialogue about oppression and discrimination.

Representatives from the training gave a presentation at a cooperative fair at the end of the day. Cooperative businesses - from food cooperatives to a peep show cooperative - set up tables around the basketball court at the Rochdale Apartments and shared the mission of their cooperatives.

BSC president Daniel Kronovet, a former employee of The Daily Californian, said the success of the event gave him hope for the future of the organization, especially in light of increased attention on the Berkeley co-op in the past year.

"People don't want to hear that their houses are drug dens. It's hard for them to hear that all the time," Kronovet said. "This event right here is what the co-ops are about."


Victoria Pardini covers Berkeley communities.

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