New building fosters same cooperative spirit

Elizabeth Campbell

A piece of notebook paper displaying 15 names is taped to the mailbox of 2000 Sherman Ave. The three-story house is no ordinary off-campus residence but home to MOSAIC, a group of Northwestern students “committed to a vision of cooperative living.”

Their residence, the Co-op, is designed for affordable, community living and environmentally conscious decision making. MOSAIC stands for Members of Society Acting in Cooperation. The cooperative home has been an alternative to traditional off-campus living since 1998.

The original residence at 2013 and 2015 Ridge Ave. had 12 residents. The Co-op moved to 2000 Sherman Ave. last fall and now has 13 residents in two doubles and nine singles. There were as many as 22 residents last year.

“It feels like a really positive way to live,” said Music sophomore Lexi Carlson, a resident of the Co-op. “We are all being conscious of our impact on the environment and wanting to live cooperatively.”

Though the residents vary in age, major and background, Carlson said their shared commitment to cooperative living brings them together.

Weinberg graduate student Robert Daland said economic and social considerations led him to move into the Co-op this year after living in an apartment.

“Grad school can be kind of isolating,” Daland said. “Living at the Co-op kind of helps me and forces me to be involved in the greater NU community.”

When problems arise, they are addressed at weekly meetings where residents discuss issues ranging from social events to financial decisions. A consensus has to be reached among all residents before a decision can be made.

“One of the problems that we face is holding member’s accountable to pay rent,” said Education junior Sujata Shyam, a Co-op resident. She added that failure to pay rent is not often a problem.

Sharing is the theme of the house, according to residents. The house meal plan consists of four meals per week, along with a steady supply of groceries.

Due to environmental considerations, all meals are vegetarian with a vegan option. But residents can keep their individually-purchased food, including meat, in a separate refrigerator.

In addition, residents are responsible for one big and one small chore each week. Tasks include cooking, bills, cleaning and new member recruitment.

Rent averages about $650 a month, varying based on room size, and includes about $85 for food.

Because this year’s house couldn’t meet the demand for space, four Co-op residents live in an apartment next door but still are part of the meal plan and all other aspects of Co-op life.

“We live here — it’s a colorful place full of magical creatures and glitter and petals,” announces the shared answering machine of the four Co-op apartment members.

Rebecca Cooper-McCann said people often stereotype the Co-op as a “hippie kind of place.”

“It’s just a bunch of random people with different interests and different backgrounds coming together to live cooperatively,” said Cooper-McCann, an Education senior.

NU faculty also appreciate the cultural and intellectual diversity of the Co-op.

“We are always trying to find community here and they have really established an enduring and unique and vital community,” said economics Prof. Mark Witte, who has visited the Co-op on several occasions.

According to Weinberg sophomore Andre Nickow, the experience of cooperative living can change a person’s perspective.

“The idea is to get people more and more in their everyday life to think in terms of groups rather than individuals solely following their self-interest,” Nickow said.

Reach Elizabeth Campbell at [email protected]