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CO-OPS: A MONEY-SAVING IDEA, BACK IN FASHION WITH STUDENTS
STANFORD -- The Enchanted Broccoli Forest is no place like home.
In fact - to hear Stanford University senior Ann Luetkemeyer describe it - it sounds like more fun.
"We take a lot of pride in the house," said Luetkemeyer, an American studies major from Baltimore, who has lived in the 52- member "cooperative" house for three years.
"We all take turns cooking and cleaning; we have live bands every other Wednesday night. Everything is entirely student run."
Luetkemeyer is one of an increasing number of Stanford students who are saving money by living in cooperatives - small on- campus residences where students share responsibility for cleaning, cooking and some house maintenance.
Founded in the early 1970s as a countercultural housing alternative, they are back in fashion at Stanford again, as surely as bell-bottom pants and lava lamps.
One indication: In last spring's campus housing lottery, students had to draw far lower numbers in order to get spots at the Enchanted Broccoli Forest and Stanford's oldest cooperative, Columbae House. In 1983, there were six Stanford co-ops housing 171 students; today there are seven co-ops housing 230.
According to Stanford Housing Center Director Bill Georges, some of the rise in popularity can be attributed to an influx of graduate students - who now form 20 percent of co-op residents - and to increased outreach efforts last year by the co-ops themselves.
Probably one of the biggest attractions for students in the 1990s, though, is cost. Because students manage co-op kitchens themselves, a typical board bill for a co-op is around $450 a quarter - just over a third of what food service charges in a university-run dormitory.
"That's a big draw," said Luetkemeyer, now the resident assistant at the Enchanted Broccoli Forest. "And I think our food is just as good, or better, than you'd get in most campus dorms."
Living in a co-op certainly requires more commitment and involvement with other house residents than the average dorm.
House managers jointly plan the purchasing of food and supplies, budgeting of finances and coordination of jobs, while residents usually spend from three to five hours per week cooking, washing dishes and cleaning bathrooms and other common areas. Some also must participate in a "work week" to get the house ready before the beginning of fall quarter.
Beyond the cost savings, though, students are increasingly drawn to the ambience of the cooperatives - funky, tolerant, diverse and somewhat disconnected from the campus mainstream.
Synergy House, relocated since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, has its own organic garden, and last year "saw an upsurge of residents exploring less-clothed states of being," according to the 1993 co-op housing guide.
Vegetarian dishes and home-baked bread are staples on most cooperative menus (about half of the Enchanted Broccoli Forest's residents don't eat meat), decision-making usually is by consensus, bathrooms are co-ed (though with separate stalls), and some of the houses even permit students of opposite sexes to room together, if they wish.
"It's not a big deal," Luetkemeyer said of the arrangements at the Enchanted Broccoli Forest. "We have about four or five mixed-gender rooms [housing about 20 percent of the residents], and of those, only one could be called a couple. The rest are just good friends. It would be silly not to let them room together."
Despite the open atmosphere, the young residents bristle when they are compared to the hippies of their parents' generation.
"While residents often subscribe to countercultural lifestyles and worldviews, very few of them resemble the hippies of the 1960s," wrote Enchanted Broccoli Forest resident Carl Goldschmidt in a letter last year to the Stanford Daily.
"The Beastie Boys or Gwar are just as popular as the Grateful Dead," he said, "and the only tie-dyeing I've seen this year was at the hands of a member of a fraternity, placed in the house through the vicissitudes of the Draw," the campus housing lottery.
About 93 percent of Stanford's undergraduates and 45 percent of graduate students live in on-campus housing. Other campus housing alternatives include traditional dorms, apartments and suites, university- and student-operated row houses, fraternities, foreign language/academic theme houses, and cross- cultural theme houses exploring American Indian, Asian American, African American and Mexican American history and culture.
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