Low occupancy during COVID-19 may lead to closure of some UC Berkeley co-ops

Berkely Student Cooperative Summer Occupancy close
Daniela Cervantes/File

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Berkeley Student Cooperative is going to have only 30% occupancy this summer in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning some houses may be facing closures.

No cooperative units are definitively closing as of now — if units do begin to close, students currently residing in cooperative units would be able to switch to an open unit, according to Ari Chivukula, BSC vice president of internal affairs.

Those living in the co-ops have expressed growing concerns about the possibility of summer closures.

“As a House President, I am worried for certain co-op members who may have chosen the houses they did because they do not include food,” said Abigail Jaquez, house president at Kidd Hall, in an email. “Having to pay extra for board would be a financial burden.”

During BSC’s May 7 board meeting, BSC Executive Director Kim Benson said members would not be forced to move, according to an email from Josh Lavine, house president at Cloyne Court. The hope would be that everyone would “be cooperative,” Lavine said.

In an email the Person of Color Theme House sent to the BSC Board of Directors, members of the co-op advocated for their unit to stay operational over the summer.

The email notes that because those who sign up for themed housing often do so to have a safe space to live in, closing these houses infringes on their safe space.

Lavine added that Benson and Operations Manager Marie Lucero proposed the closure of the African American Theme House; the Person of Color Theme House; Cloyne, which is substance-free; and Sherman Hall, which is women-identifying only during the school year. The reasoning for the proposed closures center on the low occupancy rates of the houses, according to Lavine.

“The main problems with this were that 1) managers and other members at these units were not consulted about the plans we’ve already made to be operational at the occupancies we already knew ourselves to have, and 2) it would seem that the relevant measure should not be percentage of max occupancy but rather raw numbers (and there were other houses that had lower numbers whose closure was not proposed),” Lavine said in the email.

Some residents have been more flexible with the possibility of closure as long as the house themes are respected, according to the letter from the Person of Color Theme House.

While the possibility of closures remains undetermined, residents are anxious to see how the issue will be resolved in the coming months.

“This is also frustrating in general because there is already so much uncertainty in the world,” Jaquez said in the email. “Not knowing where you’re going to live in less than two weeks doesn’t help.”

Contact Audry Jeong at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @audryjng_dc.