If you ask anyone at Central, they will tell you that we're not a cooperative, we're a 501(c)3, and so we're not really bound by the Rochdale Principles at all. This is another half-truth. It is true that we are incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit, and it is certainly true that Board's actions are not in full compliance with the California Cooperative Corporations code. But that's not because it doesn't apply to us - in fact, our non-compliance is a liability. Section 12311 of the California Corporations Code states:
(c) A domestic or foreign corporation or association which did business in this state under a name or designation including the word “cooperative” prior to September 19, 1939, and which conducts business on a cooperative basis substantially as set forth in this part, may continue to do business under that name or designation.
(d) Any person, firm, individual, partnership, trust, domestic corporation, foreign corporation, or association which did business in this state under a name or designation including the word “cooperative” prior to September 19, 1939, but which does not conduct business on a cooperative basis as contemplated by Section 12201 of this part, may continue to do business under that name or designation if the words “not organized under the law relating to cooperative corporations” are always placed immediately after the name or designation wherever it is used.
If you've ever interacted with the BSC in any capacity, you have surely noticed that we use the word "cooperative" without the legalistic cone-of-shame mandated by part (d). That is because for at least eighty years, the BSC has conducted business "on a cooperative basis substantially as set forth in this part". The further away we move from the Rochdale Principles, the less likely we would be to win a claim brought by members under this law.
Our Articles of Incorporation - which supersede our bylaws - tell a somewhat different story about our mission statement than what many of us have been told:
Its primary purposes are:
- To promote the social and general welfare of the community by offering low-rent housing to all university students, regardless of race, creed, color or national origin, and thus influence the community to eliminate prejudice and discrimination in housing.
- To advance the cause of education by providing inexpensive board and lodging for university students with limited resources, so that those who might not otherwise be able to continue at the University because of economic need, may enjoy the fruits and the benefits of higher education.
- To relieve the government of the State of California from the burden of building and operating state-owned dormitories by creating housing facilities for students at low cost on a cooperative basis; and to continually expand and extend those facilities in the community interest.
- To engage in a continuous educational program designed to eliminate prejudice and discrimination in housing, and to further the principles of tolerance and cooperation through mutual, self-help living at minimal cost.
There's no way around it: The BSC is a substantially a cooperative, in name and in Articles of Incorporation. We become a liability to ourselves when we ignore the implications this has for participatory democracy.
(Note: I'm not a lawyer/this isn't legal advice)