Petition update

Response from BSC Cabinet to our demands

BSC Organizers
United States

Mar 16, 2021 — 

What's up co-op members!

We got a response to our petition from the leadership ("Cabinet") of the elected BSC Board.

We feel optimistic that after years of increases, our rent will be frozen for the upcoming academic year. However, it is not a done deal yet. A budget proposal will be prepared on Wednesday, and then voted on (and subject to change) by our full elected board on Thursday. See below for dates and zoom links.

We want to highlight the General Membership Meeting (GMM) of the co-op THIS SATURDAY from 2pm-5pm. If you are confused or unfamiliar with how the BSC works or what it is, you are not alone! Many of us feel the same way. This meeting can be an opportunity to engage with each other, get educated on how the BSC works today, and strategize how WE the members want to transform OUR CO-OP to serve and center US. Here's the pre-meeting survey of the membership.  

Our collective pressure has been super important in driving these changes. In 2020-2021, the BSC actually added to its financial reserves while many of us struggled financially. Let's work to make sure this does not happen in our co-op again! 

Here is their full letter:    

Dear Members of the Berkeley Student Cooperative,

 

Thank you for the time, energy, and passion that you poured into developing, circulating, and delivering the petition you sent to us. We recognize that the petition is not simply asking for rent relief, but is also calling for a holistic, critical analysis of what we are budgeting for, what systems we have set up, and how we are keeping ourselves accountable to our values. We also recognize that this petition is a call for accountability and a response to harm done.

 

First and foremost, we would like to assure members that we as the Cabinet are recommending that the Board freeze rent for the coming 2021-2022 academic year.

 

The “cooperative” part of our mission statement means that we have an obligation to uphold the Rochdale Principles of Cooperation. Democratic member control and member economic participation are among these Principles we hold dear in the BSC; and we always value when our peers hold us accountable to them. The petition circulated in the past week makes it clear that the Board has been failing in its core responsibility of ensuring members relate to the BSC as part-owners and not as a third party. As Board’s own elected leadership, we on the Cabinet would like to apologize and take responsibility for these failures and commit to doing better. We want to deliver on your demands and we are going to be pragmatic. We want to ask for your grace, time, and support in answering your demands. 

 

In the meantime, you deserve a direct response from your elected representatives to your specific demands. To address the immediate demands first:

  • We as Cabinet will be recommending the Board freeze rent for this coming academic year. The Capital and Finance Committee will finalize its own recommendation on Wednesday, and the full Board will determine the final amount of next year’s rent on Thursday. All members are welcome at both meetings.

  • We are also recommending senior management salary and bonus freezes to the Board. 

  • We have pushed for more complete financial information than past Boards have as part of the budgeting process. We feel confident that the budget proposal that is currently being finalized makes no compromises to members’ needs for the sake of financial business partners, but we encourage members to review it themselves and propose changes if they feel that is untrue. 

  • Access to unit budgets were expanded in fall, and we would support expanding them further for spring. 

  • We can also share with you that Victor Saldivar will be resigning from the Cooperative Experience Manager position, effective May 11th. Please keep an eye out for a full announcement from our Interim Executive Director Teena Lorie Harris later today.

  • We have no plans to hire any new senior management for the rest of our term, which expires May 21st. After that, continuing a hiring freeze will be up to next year’s Board, which all BSC members will elect.

 

We also have an immediate partial solution to one of the end of semester demands: we want to publicize the ways that members can already apply for (and usually receive) one-off exceptions to membership criteria - please check out the grace semester policy (I.A.2) and/or talk to Betsy (betsy@bsc.coop) about it. In general, taking a semester off when you intend to return as a student does not require leaving the BSC! The Board can and should also further evaluate expanding membership criteria in a way that is in line with our values, meets IRS restrictions, and also helps us to fill bed spaces and reduce our deficit.

 

We have been exploring the diversification of our sources of income. Donations have contributed to our reserves and helped make it possible for us to use those funds to freeze rents. We are also continuing to work with staff to identify and exhaust all possible sources of government aid.

 

We are also currently analyzing alternative models for co-op structure. In Fall, the Board passed the Cooperative Involvement Plan directing Spring EACom to take tangible steps that aid in the cooperative movement. The Board’s leadership has hired Teena Lorie Harris, who will also be a Board Director at NASCO, as our new Executive Director, and we will be working with her to identify ways the BSC can further reap the benefits of cooperativity.

 

Lastly, we would like some time to work with you to tease out how best to move forward when it comes to reinvisioning staffing structure. We recognize this demand as an indication that our staffing structure is not effectively meeting the needs of membership. We want to avoid creating a new body to give us cover from blame and would like to take responsibility and work with members to enact this process.

 

All BSC members are part-owners, and, under our current bylaws, the most direct way members exercise this power is by electing the Board. The BSC’s Board is more like the Board of Regents than the ASUC - as the Board of Directors of the organization, Board is the highest decisionmaking body. While we cannot predict or guarantee what future BSC Boards will do, we are doing our best to enshrine both policy and cultural mechanisms for ensuring that each Board is accountable to its members. We encourage all members who are interested in making structural change in the BSC to run for Board. In the meantime, please come participate and bring these concerns to the General Membership Meeting on March 20th from 2pm-5pm, or share them in advance via the pre-GMM survey.

 

We are committed to taking tangible action to repair the buy-in and trust necessary for our cooperative to flourish. 

 

Cooperatively Yours,

The Cabinet of the BSC Board of Directors


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