Hip living

Maridel Reyes

Students wander in and out of the stucco duplex and share a vegetarian dinner of salad and croquettes. Magazines like “The Progressive” are strewn on cluttered tables. Salvador Dali and Bob Marley posters hang on the walls. An overweight cat greets visitors at the door.

Welcome to the Members of Society Acting in Cooperation (MOSAIC) cooperative home, or the Co-op, as the 22 Northwestern students living in the three-story house call it.

Located at 2013 and 2015 Ridge Ave., the Co-op is a federally recognized non-profit business. Cooperatives are businesses owned and operated democratically by all members. Residents pitch in for rent and food and are required to do three hours of chores a week and attend a Sunday house meeting.

“It’s a really positive learning environment for living on your own and with other people,” said Patrick Meegan, a Communication junior who is responsible for recruiting new Co-op members.

Co-op residents live in double and single rooms. Students pay $60 a month for food, which goes toward four hot meals a week and other dishes. Residents are also responsible for one large chore, such as shopping for groceries, and one small chore, like sorting mail.

Sixteen spaces in the Co-op are available for next year, and applications — which can be found online at pubweb.northwestern.edu/~smr688/MOSAICCOMMUNITIES.html — are due today.

Weinberg senior Michael Latsch, who lived in an apartment last year, said he has saved about 10 percent on rent, utilities and food by living at the Co-op.

“I’m very much a subscriber to the ideals of cooperative living, in terms of sharing food,” Latsch said. “In the end, it comes up cheaper for me this year, so obviously there’s a financial motivation.”

Co-op residents are involved in many student groups, including Rainbow Alliance, Students for Ecological and Environmental Development, Alternative Spring Break and student media such as WNUR-FM (89.3 FM) and “The Protest,” a quarterly magazine published by Peace Project.

The house buzzes with activity most nights. Past events include dinners with NU faculty, “Iron Chef”-style cooking competitions and musical and dance performances.

“I think this place also serves as a hub for political activism,” said Co-op resident Jay Goyal, a McCormick senior. “A lot of people who live here are involved in different activist groups, and they use the house as the center for organizing.”

The Co-op held a pot-luck party last Wednesday with student group Northwestern Opposes War and Racism as part of Peace Week. The students also hosted a fund-raising party Friday for Voices in the Wilderness, an organization that works to stop economic sanctions in Iraq. More than 50 people attended the party.

Evanston resident Carl Sehoby heard about Friday’s event through word of mouth. Sehoby, 54, is a member of a number of anti-war groups such as Neighbors for Peace and American Friends Service Committee.

“I want to help the Iraqi children because they’re really facing quite an onslaught: all the sanctions and then this threat of war that they really have no part of themselves,” Sehoby said.

Residents say living in the Co-op exposed them to a number of people and beliefs they wouldn’t have encountered otherwise.

“I’m not politically active personally,” said Hadley Bentgen, a Weinberg junior. “But because I’m in a house where a whole bunch of people are, I get informed and I get aware of things that are going on on campus that I wouldn’t be if I picked all my roommates individually.”

But some residents admit that living in the Co-op sometimes leads to stereotyping by other students.

“We get called a hippie commune a lot,” said Elizabeth Gore, a Communication senior.

Students often ask Gore how frequently she showers when they find out she lives at the Co-op, Gore said.

“The whole idea behind the Co-op, with them sharing everything like household chores and rent is kind of nice, but at the same time, you’re living with 20 other people and you’re sharing a line with four other people, and a bathroom with tons of other people,” said Kristina Francisco, a Medill senior and former Daily columnist.

Bentgen said interactions are not limited to the people who live in the house. And yet many residents said they will return for next year because of the sense of community.

“You get 20 people and 20 people’s friends,” Bentgen said. “You get all of their friends, all of the student groups that they’re in. It gets pretty busy, but at the same time I’ve met hundreds of people here (who) have totally different belief systems that I would have never met if I lived by myself after freshman year.”