395. Korean Students Learn from the BSC

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Coop Name: Berkeley Student Cooperative N° of Employees: 21
City: Berkeley N° of Members: 1300
Country: United States Year of formation: 1933
Website: http://www.bsc.coop Twitter: Link
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About this coop:

The Berkeley Student Cooperative is a 501c3 nonprofit housing cooperative that provides affordable housing in room and board houses and apartments to students at UC Berkeley and other Bay Area colleges and universities. Presently the BSC has over 1300 student members living in or eating at twenty student housing cooperatives around the UC Berkeley campus. Each house is democratically run, and we all contribute our labor to help keep our housing costs affordable. Founded in 1933, the BSC is the largest student housing cooperative in the United States. We are a member of the North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO), an association of housing, food, and worker cooperatives in the US and Canada.

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In August 2012, Students from Korea University and Yeonsae University visited the Berkeley Student Cooperative as part of a two-week tour of American student cooperatives. Students at these schools in Seoul plan to form housing cooperatives to lower living costs, and visited the North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO) headquarters, the BSC, the Santa Barbara Student Housing Co-op, and the UCLA co-ops.

Led by Ji Soo Lee and Hyoseon Kim, the students toured several BSC houses and also talked with BSC members and staff on how BSC operations work, and their roles in keeping the co-op running.

The students were most interested in the early history of the BSC, as they are presently at a similar step in co-op formation. In its early years, the founding members of the BSC pooled their resources and worked summer jobs to raise money for leasing the first BSC co-op and purchasing food. Ji Soo’s group was also interested in the BSC’s low-cost leases of University land and buildings, which provide some of the most affordable housing near campus. They were also excited about the BSC’s democratic governance that empowers residents and provides unique leadership experience to members.

During the visit, the students also got to experience the everyday parts of Co-op living, staying a night, eating meals, and learning how to use the industrial dishwasher at the houses. Among the sights on the tour of the houses included sustainability initiatives such as solar power, garden composting, greenhouses, and chickens, as well as earthquake safety improvements at Sherman Hall and Kingman.

Our visitors were also interested in starting a food co-op as a way to raise additional funds, and visited the Berkeley Student Food Collective’s grocery store and the BSC central food warehouse.

Author of this story
Alfred Twu
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