Student created cooperative offers new options for "intentional" student housing

After being inspired by a shared dissatisfaction with Campus Auxiliary Services’ on-campus food choices, juniors Tom Silva and Lillian Mayer have successfully created the first cooperative living venture in Geneseo. Mayer first asked Silva about cooperative-living style, but Silva hadn’t heard of it. After what began as a flippant appreciation of the results of that Google search soon turned into the development of a completely new approach to college living in Geneseo.

“It didn’t start out with the idea of having a house; it originated with this alternative to the options of on-campus living,” Silva said.

But, after doing more research and talking about it with friends, Silva and Mayer eventually collected a group of interested students to form what is now the North American Students of Cooperation’s nationally recognized Genesee Valley Cooperative project.

Although still in its developing stages, the group has recently been making substantial progress, and in the fall of 2014 participants will finally be moving into their newly acquired co-op on Avon Road.

“In a cooperative, the people that live in the house are the property share owners,” Silva said. “So when you pay rent and move into the house, you’re essentially buying a share of a business – you become one-tenth or one-twentieth of this business endeavor.

“But we don’t want to come off as something that’s going to be combative to the system of housing and food on campus,” Silva said. “We want to be an alternative option for people who are being marginalized or feel unsatisfied with what they are being presented with.”

One of the main focuses of the house on Avon Road will be the communal eating and cooking of “better food,” Mayer said, as there will be “an intentionally common living space” in which students will cook a communal dinner each night.

“It’s turned it something about more than food, however,” junior Nathan Kahn and co-op member said of the project. “Since energy and political issues are very tangible here, the cooperative will really be a place for social action of all sorts of kinds.”

Silva also explained that one of the project’s central goals is to empower students who are currently faced with the choice of either living in the dorms or dealing with landlords living off-campus.

And, while not directly affiliated with the Think Local Geneseo agenda, due to local changes initiated by projects like Think Local Geneseo, Silva said he and Mayer agree that this could be the perfect time to begin real, productive and structural changes to the Geneseo housing scene.

“We’re working to breakdown that divide between ‘I am a student’ and ‘I am a townsperson,’” junior Sarah Diaz added. “And show everyone that we are all Geneseo folks.”

Mayer said they hope to accomplish this community fusion through dinners and activities throughout the year and said they will continue to share their mission with those who are interested.