Why Is This Kitchen Here?

In late 1973, a group of Fairhaven College students approached the university with the idea of creating a "cooperative dormitory" in which residents would shop, cook, and live as a group, independent of "dorm food." We were seeking more control of our living situation, cost savings, and a sense of community.

After a lengthy and challenging negotiation with Housing, we launched Coop Dorm 5 in June of 1974 with about twenty residents, swelling to about thirty-five when school started in the fall.

Each week there was a "chicken" (kitchen manager), and an assistant chicken (who succeeded the chicken the following week. Each of us signed up for three jobs a week - shopping, cooking, washing dishes, mopping the floor, making bread, making granola were among the jobs. Everyone contributed $10 weekly to our food budget (things were cheaper then, but we were also very frugal).

Every Sunday night was our group meeting, to work out any issues that came up among us, from menu planning to people not "pulling their load." Most were congenial. Some were a bit intense.

For a few years, there were two Coop dorms - Coop 5 was omnivorous, while Coop 3 was a "vegetarian" dorm. Eventually, lacking institutional commitment from the College, the concept faded. We wonder if it would be possible to resurrect the concept in a litigious era - would it be too risky for the College?

Many of us have been fast friends ever since. We maintain contact in several ways. The lessons that we learned in group dynamics have helped us throughout life. Among other things, cooking dinner for thirty people is no big deal for former Coop 5 residents.

This note left by the original founding residents of Coop 5
We gathered here in August, 2004 for a 30-year Reunion.
Visit us on the web at www.coop5.org

[written by Jim Lazar 8/21/2004]