A.S. Council Votes to Recertify Co-ops

    A.S. Council voted to re-certify each of UCSD’s co-ops at their Nov. 28 meeting, following presentations from University Centers Advisory Board (UCAB) and the Campus Cooperative Union. The co-ops are now awaiting a similar vote from Graduate Student Association (GSA) in order to be completely re-certified.

    The president of University Center (UCEN), Albert Trujillo, presented on behalf of UCAB at the Wednesday, Nov. 28th council meeting, describing the Master Space Agreement (MSA) that governs the co-ops’ relationship with University Centers. The MSA specifies that recertification of the co-ops should be based on specific criteria such as whether or not the co-ops’ financial practices are sound, whether their service is adequate and other operating issues.

    A.S. Council and GSA had asked UCAB for a presentation of the facts concerning the co-ops’ recertification. Trujillo explained that each co-op has accumulated debt over several years, and that the co-ops have been evaluated yearly for fiscal solvency up to the 2009 school year by an outside Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

    The CPA did not evaluate Che Cafe because the co-op did not have enough principal members — the cafe also lost its nonprofit status after it failed to file IRS tax form 990 for each of the past three years and is pending recognition as a student organization. Trujillo advised council to ask each co-op if they were acting in the best interests of the students, and if they are financially sound.

    Trujillo asserted that the rent charged to each co-op is fair, and their debt is primarily the accumulation of unpaid rent and utilities over time. Currently, the co-ops are charged one–tenth of the market value on each of their spaces, or about $1000 a month, but haven’t made enough money to pay that, resulting in a loss for University Centers.

    Trujillo also said that re-evaluating how much each co-op pays in rent is a future possibility.

    “UCAB would need to see each of the co-ops’ sales and financial statements over the past few years,” Trujillo said. “That’s just not something we have from them at the moment.”

    The Campus Cooperative Union, representing each of UCSD’s co-ops, including Groundwork Books, The General Store, The Food Co-op and Che Cafe, also prepared a presentation for A.S. Council.

    Union members focused on the sense of friendship and community that the co-ops have inspired for them.

    “The co-ops are places that bring different kinds of students together,” Morgan, another principal member of the General Store said. “We routinely hold open mic nights and video game tournaments.”

    According to the members, co-ops often represent valuable options for students as well.

    “The Food Co-Op sells fair trade food that is affordable and delicious,” Eden, a principal member, said on behalf of the Food Co-Op. “We like having an alternative to the more expensive Price Center.

    During their Nov. 28 presentation to council, the union claimed that Price Center’s expansion left the co-ops shut out of campus life, which led to less profit to pay their rent. According to their presentation, another obstacle that the co-ops face is that their rent was calculated and fixed in the 1990s, but inflation and changes in sales have made it impossible to keep up with that number.

    The union also emphasized that each of the co-ops is on different fiscal levels — the Food Co-Op has been profitable enough to pay utilities and employees since 2011, while Che Cafe recently switched to an all-volunteer structure in order to alleviate debt. The co-ops are not seeking financial help from A.S. Council, but rather a structural and promotional relationship. The union believes that recertification would allow them more time to pay off their debts.

    Following the presentations, council passed a resolution in support of the co-ops and voted to re-certify them. Should GSA also vote to re-certify, the co-ops will retain that status for another two years.

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