Harvard students are united by a single institution that affects them from the moment they cross the threshold of higher education: the Harvard-MIT Coop.
Students have the opportunity to influence Coop policy decisions--the opening or closing of stores, the granting of employee benefits, the acquisition of new equipment--by serving as one of 11 students members of the board of directors.
Until December 12, interested students may submit an application to the Coop's stockholders, a group of students and faculty who hold the Coop's stock in trust for its members. The students join the Coop's president, and 11 faculty, alumni, and officers of MIT and Harvard on the 23-member body.
The stockholders interview all student applicants and decide which 11 will appear on the ballot distributed to Coop members next March. Students also may bypass the stockholders and get on the ballot by securing the signatures of 100 Coop members.
Current board members encourage students who are interested in business to apply, regardless of academic background.
"This is not a club," says Chana R. Schoenberger '99, who has served on the Coop's board the past two years. "You're not simulating running a business; you're actually running it. You receive bank statements, and you're financially accountable to know what's going on."
As a cooperative owned by its members, the Coop divides its profits among members every year. But in recent years, the Coop's inability to turn a significant profit has left students empty handed. This fall, Coop members will receive their first rebate in three years: 3.5 percent of the total purchases they made last year with their Coop number.
The Coop's board enjoys broad power over major policy decisions, but it does not determine the rebate. Day-to-day operations are left to the president, Jeremiah P. Murphy Jr. '73.
Murphy says the student members help the board focus on current issues.
"The things we really look for in potential candidates are commitment and enthusiasm," says Murphy. He thinks the experience of facilitating the Coop's restructuring is fascinating for students and non-students alike.
Schoenberger says, "When I had something to say, I was always heard. I was never dismissed because I was 20."
Stockholders selecting students for the ballot must divide their nominations among member schools. Four ballot spots are reserved for Harvard undergraduates, three for University graduate students, two for MIT undergrads, and two for MIT grad students.
Harvard has more representatives on the ballot because the Coop was founded in 1882 as a store to supply textbooks and firewood for Harvard students. MIT joined the Coop in the 1920s.
Applications for student directorships are currently available at the Coop. Candidates must be Harvard or MIT students at least 18 years of age who plan to be degree candidates during the year for which election is sought.