Moving out of Isla Vista, California back to New York, where I lived in Manhasset, and now Rego Park, led me to realize the importance of the co-op system of which I was apart for one year.
There are five co-ops in IV- four housing and one food- known as: Dashain, Biko, Newman, Manley, and the Isla Vista Food Co-op. I was a member of both the IV Food Co-op and the Dashain House. Luckily, they were the perfect cooperatives for my living situation away from home in mid-June of 2002.
The Dashain House is an off-campus home possessing all the luxuries I was bereft of the previous year in Anacapa Hall at UCSB. I found out about the co-op system from my best friend Sarah whom I met in the dorm, when she invited me to a raging Python Porno Party featuring freestyle poetry at a co-op where one of her friends was living in Berkeley. The night was a success, so a month later we signed contracts to be a part of the system. Our plan to live in Dashain brought the number of students majoring in Religious Studies to six, alongside eight other members attending or working for the University of California at Santa Barbara beginning summer quarter. The brief interaction that took place between Sarah and I and the residents living there when we toured the house served as our only hope that our time there would be safe and sane.
Dashain is a vegan/vegetarian style housing co-op including two stories, nine bedrooms, a (dead) meat ban, front and back yard, washer and dryer, view of the Pacific, four chickens, and my Beta fish Skinny- not your average Isla Vista apartment with a pain in the ass landlord in control of the property. The students who run the housing business supply their consumers with a completely furnished house in exchange for the service conducted by its members, who help out the system by fulfilling weekly chores and quarterly service hours. Because members equally share in the work to maintain quality of the house, food supply, house pets, etcetera, the cost effectiveness of the business increases, reducing each individual’s rent compared to that of students residing in landlord-owned homes and apartments.
Because co-ops are democratically run businesses providing their stakeholders with a good or service, ranging from medical supplies and treatment to childcare and home schooling, every member receives his or her share of the business back if one decides no longer to participate as a member. I received a housing and IV Food Co-op deposit in the mail after my return to New York. Providing there are enough consumers willing to invest in a particular business, co-ops of all kinds can be instituted, as they currently are worldwide.
My experience in the co-op system, especially in the Dashain House, where I lived with thirteen other members, many of whom worked at the IV Food Co-op, has most importantly taught me to openly express our shared values of “Freedom, Beauty, Truth, and above all, Love,” upon which the Bohemian ideals are portrayed so well in Moulin Rouge.