On her first day as president of Nakamura Co-op, LSA junior Katie Helegda had to face the possibility that Nakamura might not exist for much longer.
On Sept. 28, Helegda received notice that the Inter-Cooperative Council (ICC), the governing body of Ann Arbor’s student co-ops, had put Nakamura on house priority status, a status similar to probation.
The ICC had received complaints that the house was in disrepair and that officers were slacking on their responsibilities. If the co-op didn’t clean up its act, the ICC might shut it down, similar to the fate of Jones House in 2007.
Like Jones before it, Nakamura had garnered a reputation as the “party co-op” — a sure recipe for scaring off certain residents and attracting another especially uncooperative type. Residents weren’t doing their housework or following house rules, officers were unresponsive to residents’ concerns and parties were getting out of control — at one bash, an exit sign was ripped from the ceiling and a hole was punched in a wall.
Helegda cited a lack of community among former housemates and, consequently, a high turnover rate as issues that contributed to Nakamura’s deterioration.
“People who lived here didn’t care about the house,” she said. “They took advantage of the house because they were going to leave.”
After Nakamura was put on probation, Helegda made sweeping changes. LSA senior Heather Korman explained that once put on house priority status, Helegda went beyond her responsibilities by rewriting Nakamura’s constitution and mobilizing her housemates. Korman said Helegda began “with less support from the house, but her help spurred interest in the house.”
Helegda encouraged a stronger sense of community and pride in housework, held longer and more frequent house meetings and demanded that house officers be more approachable and concerned with the house’s welfare.
While Nakamura is no longer the “Animal House” of the co-op system, Helegda said it is still “kind of an anti-co-op co-op” that revels in big parties, live music and red meat.
“It’s just a lot of people who aren’t into the Kumbaya bullshit,” she said. “You don’t have to be vegan or best friends to live in the house.”