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Outline for Orientation Video

back to the short outline


voiceover / narration


  • Welcome

Living in a student co-op is unlike living anywhere else. You'll be sharing a house with a dozen or so other people, and will have the opportunity to develop deep friendships that can last a lifetime. Living in a co-op isn't just fun, it can help you grow, and will be an experience you remember for the rest of your life.

[sound bites from former members]

While co-op living can be rewarding it can also be confusing and overwhelming at first, what with housework assignments, house meetings, elections, committees, and so on -- all while you're trying to juggle school and maybe even a job. That's why we put this video together, to show you the basics about co-op living.

In ICC things happen at both the house level and across the organization as a whole. As we go through this video we'll cover both sides of ICC, and you'll see how they're both important to you.

House scenes

Possible sound biters:

  • Jim Jones
  • Howard Lenett
  • Stuart Gourd
  • Cedar Stevens
  • Matt & Ursula
  • John Mackey

Talking head

  • What you got

When you joined ICC you didn't just get a room in a house. You became a part-owner in an organization that has been providing housing to students for over 30 years. Yes, you really do own it. The profits that we make go right back into the organization -- not into a landlord's pockets.

When you joined ICC you also became a member. This means that you have a say in how the organization is managed, by electing the organization's board of directors, or even running for a board position yourself. You have the same power at the house level -- helping elect the officers within your house, or running for an officer position yourself.

Along with the rights of being a member come some responsibilities. The main ones are:

  • Paying your room charges
  • Doing your housework (called "labor")
  • Attending weekly or biweekly house meetings


  • Why an Owner's Manual

When you buy something that's expensive, or that's complicated enough that you need help figuring out how it works, you get an owner's manual. ICC is no different. When you signed your contract you were given an ICC Owner's Manual, which has a lot of the same useful information contained in this video. If you didn't get an Owner's Manual, then stop by the ICC office to get one.

Transfer of Owner's Manual.

Flipping pages.

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About ICC

voiceover / narration


  • What is ICC

ICC is made up of many parts:

  • The nine houses
  • The 189 members
  • The board of directors, which sets policy for the organization as a whole
  • The office, where our five professional staffmembers work

Interview: "One thing that's funny is that sometimes you'll hear members referring to the office as though the office is ICC. They'll say, 'I need to go to ICC to pay my room charges,' or 'We're having a meeting at ICC.' And that's kind of crazy, because the office isn't ICC -- ICC is all the houses, and all the members in those houses, and the board which is elected by those members, and the staff which takes care of the day to day matters. The office isn't ICC, it's just an office. So if you're referring to the place at 2305 Nueces, you don't say, 'I'm going to *ICC*,' you'd say, 'I'm going to...the office.'"


Soundbite: The office is not ICC. ICC is everyone.

  • Brief history

In the Great Depression of the 1930's everyone had to struggle to make ends meet, and students were no exception. A popular style of off-campus housing was boarding houses, with live-in maids and cooks. The students figured that they could all share in the cooking and cleaning themselves instead of paying others to do it, and thus student housing co-ops were born.

Stills of the 1930's

Housing co-ops continued to be popular throughout the 40's, 50's, and 60's, but there was one big problem: the students didn't own the houses, so the co-ops would die out when a building got torn down and replaced with apartments, or too many of the students just moved out and there was no one left to keep a house going as a co-op.

Animation of houses getting torn down, and students moving out

The solution was ICC, which decided it would own the houses to keep the co-ops from continually dying out.

In 1971 ICC bought its first house, Holloway House, later renamed Prana. That was followed by the New Guild, French House, Helios, Royal, Seneca, and Arrakis, all by 1975.

In 1981 we sold Prana and bought House of Commons.

In 1994 we started leasing Avalon, which is the only house we don't own.

In 2003 we bought our first new house in decades, 1910.

Animation of new houses.

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Moving In

voiceover / narration


  • Pay room charges
  • Get a key
  • Ask for help

History's nice, but if you haven't moved in yet then moving in is probably the first thing on your mind. Here's what you need to know.

First, you have to pay your first month's room charges before you move in. Call the office if you're unsure about where you stand with your payments.

Next, call or email the Trustee at your new house to get the key to your room, and the security code for the front door. If you just show up one day with all your stuff you'll be mighty upset if you can't get into your room -- or even into your own house!

When you're moving in don't be shy about asking for help from your new housemates -- and be sure to do the same for new people who move in after you.

Writing a check

Phone conversation

Carrying boxes and furniture inside

  • The Kitchen

After shelter comes food. The kitchen is yours to use, so feel free to help yourself to anything in the kitchen, in any fridge and on any shelf. Just stay away from anything marked COOKS which is for cooks to prepare house meals, and PERSONAL which are things that house members have bought for themselves.

Since this is a co-op, it's important that you clean up after yourself every time you use the kitchen, even if all you're eating is cereal.

Kitchen shots

Bad co-oper (B.C.) getting item from cooks' shelf

  • Internet

Your room probably has an Ethernet jack for a high-speed Internet connection. Your house probably also has a pubic computer that everyone can use. Check with any house member to see how Internet works in your house.


  • Learning about your house

There's as much to know about your house as there is about ICC. Most houses have a printed Owner's Manual specific to the house, which explains things about how the kitchen and labor shifts work. Some houses have their manual online but not in printed form. Either way, the very best way to learn about your house is to look through the house manual.

This is important enough that it bears repeating: The very best way to learn about your house is to look through the house manual.

Flipping through pages, browsing online

B.C. not paying attention

  • You're a full member

One last thing: You're a full member as soon as you move in. There's no such thing as seniority, so no one in the house is more important than you. No one gets to tell you what to do, and you're able to be a part of the house as much as anyone else.

Psychedelic fractals with a co-oper in the middle

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voiceover / narration


  • Who's on the board

The Board of Directors makes major planning and policy decisions like making the budget, setting room rates, and deciding which house to close each summer for maintenance. The board is made up mostly of the members who live in the houses. Let's see who's on the board.

Each house elects one of its members to serve on the board, kind of like a senator. This person is called the Board Representative, or the Board Rep for short. Most houses give four hours of labor credit per week to the Board Rep.

There are also about five Coordinators who are elected in an ICC-wide election every May. They can come from any house. Coordinators chair committees which cover things such as finances, education, and maintenance.

Finally, there are two Community Trustees, who aren't members of the co-op, although they're usually former members.



  • Board meetings and decisions

The board meets every two weeks. A few days before a meeting one of the Coordinators will deliver a board packet to your house and post it on the bulletin board. The packet will have the agenda for the meeting and a list of proposals. Even if you're not on the board you can still go to a meeting, especially if you have concerns about an item on the agenda.

Another way to voice your concerns to the board is through your house's board rep. Be sure to talk to your board rep if you have an opinion about something that's on the board's agenda, or if you just need more information.

At your house meetings your board rep will give a report explaining what things the board recently decided and what things will be decided soon. This is your crucial link to the big decisions that are being made ICC-wide, so pay attention. Part of the board rep's job is to give these reports and to give them well.

Board packet

Conversation between board rep and house member

Sound bite: Joe England on the importance of the board

  • ECC

There are lots of committees in ICC but there's a special one called the ECC, which sounds confusingly like ICC. The ECC is made up of all the Coordinators who are elected ICC-wide. They're like a subset of the board of directors. ECC reviews the performance of our professional General Administrator every year, and they make emergency decisions between semesters when the board isn't in session.


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voiceover / narration


  • Where does your money go?

    [need good summary of Member Relations job]

All the money you pay each month goes towards running the organization. Any profit we make is reinvested in our buildings. Nobody gets rich off ICC.

Nearly 1/4th of your money goes directly towards paying off the loans we used to buy the houses. The main reason we still have these loans is that we keep refinancing them to keep room rates down in the short term, with the tradeoff being that it takes us longer to pay off the loans. If we don't refinance again then we'll pay off all our houses in 15 years.

Another big chunk is for food -- eighteen cents out of every dollar you pay goes towards buying food for your house, as well as minor expenses like toilet paper and voicemail.

Fifteen percent of your money goes to maintenance and improvements on our buildings. Our houses are around a hundred years old and they need constant attention.

Utilities like electricity and water eat up 12% of the money you pay, so try to turn off lights in unused rooms and the kitchen.

Nineteen percent of the budget is to pay our professional staff, including benefits. Our staff includes a Housing Agent who takes care of contracts, a Membership person who XXX, an Accountant who takes care of our one million dollar budget, and a General Administrator who oversees all of them. We also have a Facilities & Maintenance staffer, but that expense is counted under Maintenance.

The remaining 10% goes to things like Advertising, Education, and Savings.

Pie chart animation, Wells Fargo

[re-do the pie chart for the 2004-05 budget]



Turning off lights


Classified ad, education event (?), and piggy bank

  • Who plans the budget and when

    [budget needs to go on the website]

The numbers you just saw come from the annual budget, and the annual budget comes from the board of directors. In the Spring semester the board draws up a budget for the next school year. Part of making a budget is setting room rates, which is something the membership takes a keen interest in. Of course, everyone would like rates to be as low as possible, but keeping rates low is not so simple. If we made rates lower then we'd have to do with less food, less maintenance, or less something.

On the other hand, one of ICC's whole reason for existence is to provide low-cost housing for students, so it's important that we keep rates as low as possible. Also, if our rates are too high then we have too many vacancies, and that costs us a lot of money too. In fact, just a couple years of bad occupancy could threaten our survival.

The #1 thing that can keep room rates low, or at least keep them from going any higher, is to fill up the houses. When the houses are full we can spread our costs over lots of members and that keeps things affordable for everyone. When occupancy is bad, all our costs are borne by fewer people. That means that either our rates go up, or our services get cut -- or we go out of business.

This is another one of those things that's so important it bears repeating: The #1 thing that can keep room rates low is to fill up the houses.

If you have other ideas for making ICC more affordable consider running for a board position. In the meantime, we'll give you a quick rule of thumb: Every $2000 you cut from the budget, or every $2000 in new revenue you find, means you can lower room rates by $1 per month. The complete budget is on the ICC website.


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Email Lists

voiceover / narration


  • openForum
  • iccForum
  • House Lists
  • Use the website to get on or off
  • Other lists for committees, see website
  • Media Committee sets policy

Email helps everyone stay connected, both at the house and the ICC level. When you join ICC you're automatically added to three lists, but you can take yourself off any list you don't want to be on.

The first list is openForum. With this list you can send a message to everyone in ICC about whatever you want. Since there are nearly 200 people on this list please send only things that you really think will be of interest to the membership. Also note that there's a limit of one post per day per person, to keep mail traffic manageable.

The next list is iccForum. This also goes to everyone in ICC, but anything you send here has to be about ICC. This list also has a limit of one post per day.

The last list is your house list, which goes to everyone in your house. Your house sets its own rules and what can be posted and how often. Check with your house trustee or your house manual for any special email rules for your house.

There are also lists for the board and committees, but new members aren't added to these automatically. If you want to get on any other list just visit the ICC website. Also, if you never got on a list somehow, you can add yourself on the website.

If you're getting too much email and you want to get off any list, just go to the website to take yourself off. It's nobody's job to remove you, if you want off a list you have to take yourself off.

One last thing: The only appropriate way to email all of ICC is to use openForum and iccForum. Never, ever send an email addressed to each house mailing list.

Shots of email being used

One post per day graphic

Shots of email being used

One post per day graphic

Graphics of arrakis@, helios@, seneca@, hoc@...

Unsubscribe shots

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voiceover / narration


  • List of resources

You've probably seen the ICC website before, but you may not be aware of all the useful things that are on it. Here are some things you might find helpful.

  • An Academic Year calendar
  • How to paint your room
  • Tips for how to run the first meeting of the semester
  • Labor Holiday ideas
  • How to handle the interim period between semesters
  • House manuals
  • How to use your house's own webspace on the ICC website
  • A way to get on or off any ICC email list
  • A place to upload files you want to share with other members
  • Information about ICC Scholarships
  • Contact information for each house, each officer at each house, every board member, and every committee coordinator
  • A list of all ICC committees along with contact information
  • House officer job descriptions
  • A complete list of all ICC rules and policies, including the alcohol at parties policy and procedures for membership review

shots of the website

"iccaustin.coop" overlay

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Kitchen & Food

voiceover / narration


What you do affects everybody


Living in a co-op isn't like living alone -- everything you do affects all the people you live with, in either a good way or a bad way. And the easiest place to affect your housemates in a bad way is in the kitchen. It's hard to keep a kitchen used by a couple dozen people clean and functional, so it's especially important to make sure you do the right things in the kitchen.

kitchen shots

Cleaning up

The most important thing is that you always clean up after yourself, no matter how small the meal or snack you make. This means putting all items back where you got them, and washing your dishes. The machines in our kitchens are sanitizers, not dishwashers, so you have to get all food off your plates and utensils before putting them in the dish racks.

cleaning up

Zero food in sinks

None of our sinks have garbage disposals, so it's important that all waste food goes into the trash can or the compost bin, if your house has one. This bears repeating: Don't put any food in the sinks, at all. If your sink gets clogged your house will have to pay to get it fixed.

trashing, composting, Zero Food in Sinks sign


The dish sanitizer is also called a Jackson because that's the company that makes it. It sanitizes by using very hot water, not soap. Some things don't go in the Jackson, such as wood-handled knives. Knives should just be rinsed, dried, and put in the knife rack.

Knife cleaning

Hang up simple items

Only things that have been exposed to someone's mouth need to be sanitized, like cups, dishes, and utensils. Serving spoons can just be rinsed off and hung up. Of course, if you licked the serving spoon or it was sitting in a sink full of dirty dishes, then go ahead and sanitize it.

Hanging up a spoon,

licking it

Hang pots on the inside

Always hang pots and pans on the inside of the rack, because people can bang their heads into them if they're on the outside.

Talking head, me: "So one day John comes into the kitchen and he just BANGS his head on one of these cast iron pans that someone had hung on the outside of the rack, and it's pretty bad, he's dripping blood and really annoyed, you know, so like if you ask, 'Are you okay?' he's like, 'NO, I'm NOT okay,' and you can tell he doesn't want to talk about it. And the worst thing about it was that my girlfriend and I were in the middle of a fight so now we have to stop because our housemate is in pain and dripping blood and so it's real awkward and there's no easy way to recapture our momentum for the fight."

Hanging pans

Talking head

cast iron

Cast iron requires special treatment. Never soak cast iron, and never use soap. Instead, just clean the pan well, and then put an extremely light coat of salad oil on the pan. If you don't put oil on the pan then it'll rust. Then just hang up the pan with the other pans, on the inside.

Cast iron cleaning & oiling

refill containers

If you get the last bit of water from a pitcher then be sure to refill it. And if you drink the last of the juice, then make some more juice. There's no elf that goes around filling up containers and making juice, so when you take the last of it, you should make another pitcher yourself.

Refilling container and making juice

multiple containers

One of the worst things you can do is to open a new container of something like jam, ketchup, or butter when there's already an open container. It's silly to have four or five open containers of the same thing in the fridge, so be sure to use up the last container before opening a new one. If there's not enough for you in the container that's already open, then take what IS left, dispose of the container, and THEN open the new container.

When you do finish the last of something, recycle the container, or throw it away, or wash it.

Multiple containers, recycling, tossing, washing

heat and plastic

Never put hot foods into plastic containers because the heat can leach chemicals from the plastic into the food. The only exception is the super industrial clear, hard plastic containers which are designed to withstand heat. If it's not hard and clear, it's not good enough.

Also, whenever you're making food for the house, never microwave plastic. Again, the plastic chemicals can leach into the food, even with supposedly microwave-safe plastic. Use a ceramic container instead.


Never leave sharp objects lying around, like knives and food processor blades. If you leave them in the sink or a drying rack someone could cut themselves. Instead, dry them thoroughly and put them away.

Knives and S-blades


Demo: "If it's your job to clean the kitchen then make sure you sweep under the fridges and the tables. Don't think, 'Oh, someone else will do that,' because WHO ELSE is going to do it? If you don't clean the kitchen thoroughly when it's YOUR job to clean it, then who else is going to clean it properly when it's NOT their job? It doesn't take that much effort to do the job right, and it makes an important difference."



All houses recycle, but make sure you put only things that are truly recyclable in the bins. If you're not sure whether something is recyclable it's better to just throw it away.

Demo: "We can take paper, cardboard, bottles, and cans. If it's plastic it has to be a bottle, and it has to have a #1 or a #2 on the bottom. These [tofu] aren't recyclable because they're not bottles. It doesn't matter what the code is, if it's not a bottle we can't take it. These [lids] aren't recyclable because they're not bottles, throw them away. These are bottles but they're not #1 or #2, so we don't take them. These [soymilk] aren't recyclable because they're lined with wax or plastic. The only kind of glass that's recyclable is unbroken bottles. If it's a window, or a light bulb, or it's broken in any way, then just throw it out."


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Fire Safety

voiceover / narration


  • Campus Guild
  • Prana
  • Chavez
  • Seneca
  • Arrakis
  • Stevens

A few years ago over the winter break, a member of Arrakis jammed a waffle into an old toaster and left the house. The waffle didn't pop up, and eventually it caught fire. Then the kitchen caught fire, and soon the whole house was in flames. By the time the fire was put out, the house was destroyed, and all the co-opers there had lost there home, and most of their belongings.

But this wasn't the first time a co-op has gone up in flames. The original Campus Guild also burned to the ground, as did Prana House. And just a few years before Arrakis burned, Seneca suffered a fire as well. In other parts of the country fires destroyed Chavez House in Santa Cruz, Stevens House in Ann Arbor, and Ofek Shalom House in Madison, where two members' cats were killed.

But it's not just the danger, loss of home, and loss of property that is a problem with co-op fires. It hits the organization in the pocketbook, and that means everyone has to pay higher room rates.


[Interview with Billy]

Pictures of gutted Arrakis

Quote (Howard?): "There's this big myth that if you have insurance that insurance takes care of everything, but it just doesn't work that way. First of all, our insurance doesn't cover 100% of each house, it covers only about 80% of that. The reason we don't insure up to a hundred percent is that no insurance company will give us that kind of coverage, especially when one of our houses goes up in flames every several years. Even if they did offer 100% coverage that coverage would cost more than we could afford to pay. So when a house is destroyed by fire we get a partial reimbursement but our members wind up picking up the rest of the tab. At ICC, members are paying about $60/mo. extra because Arrakis burned. And that includes another expense that's not so obvious: Once a house burns, we don't make any income on that house until it's rebuild or until we buy another one to replace it, and that process can take a long time with the City's bureaucratic red tape. It took three years for us to get Arrakis going after it burned and ICC members are going to be paying for that fact for years to come."

Billy: One of the biggest parts of my job is preventing fires at the houses. Keeping the houses functional and looking good is nice but ultimately that's all for naught if the house burns down.

Me: So there's probably nothing a member can do to prevent fires, right?

Billy: No, members can definitely prevent fires. In most cases it's the members who cause the fires so it stands to reason that they could keep them from happening in the first place. The first thing is to have a working smoke detector in each room. One of the stupidest things you can do is to take a battery out of a smoke detector -- it's there to protect you and your housemates, but it's not protecting jack if you jack with it. Another thing is to not use any kind of space heater except the ones that are filled with oil and completely sealed. In fact these are the only kind of heaters that are allowed in ICC because the others are just too dangerous. And then also there's things like not leaving the kitchen after you've turned on any appliance, making sure the stove is off when you're done with it, and, oh, a big one -- not putting flammable stuff right next to the heaters in the basement. The heaters have these big signs that say, "Don't put anything within six feet of this heater" but I'm always going down into the basements and seeing where people have not only put stuff right next to the heaters but it's usually things like cardboard boxes, books, paper, things that'll turn to flame in a heartbeat.

Me: Anything else you want to say?

Billy: God Bless America.

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House Meetings

voiceover / narration


  • Why important

Right after paying your monthly room charges and doing your house labor, participating in meetings is your most important responsibility as a member.

Co-oper: "The whole idea of co-ops is that we govern ourselves, and that requires participation. If people didn't come to meetings then we might as well not even have a co-op. A house is at its happiest and its healthiest when all its members are involved in making the decisions -- and even if some members are kind of quiet during a meeting, it still helps that they were there so they had the opportunity to offer their support or an objection, and so they at least know what decisions are being made by the house as a whole."

Another co-oper: "Going to house meetings is a lot like doing your labor: It's a way that you contribute to the house. Both things take your time, but both things are essential for having a house that runs well. No house is ever harmonious without the involvement of its members."

If you're unable to make a house meeting talk to your house's Trustee. Most houses don't penalize members for missing meetings, but some houses require members to do some extra labor if they can't make a meeting.

Meeting shots

Talking head

Trustee & member talking?

  • What kinds of things are decided
  • Getting something on the agenda

House meetings happen every week or every other week, usually on Sundays after dinner.

All kinds of things are decided at house meetings. At the first house meeting of a semester the members will elect the house officers, such as the treasurer and the board rep. Meetings are also the time for the house to decide when to hold parties, whether to purchase kitchen appliances, approving pets, and changing house policies.

In most houses you can suggest an agenda item by writing it on an agenda board at least 24 hours before the meeting. Some houses also require that you write the details in a proposal notebook or send them to the house email list. Proposals should be detailed and if a purchase or expense is involved, you should include how much the item will cost after researching it.

Meeting shots

Agenda board, proposal notebook, email list

Typical Agenda:

  • Opening round robin
  • Announcements
  • Appreciations & Concerns
  • Officer Reports
  • Agenda Review
  • Proposals
  • Closing Round Robin

Here's an agenda for a typical house meeting, though the content and order can vary a little from house to house.

An opening round robin. A round robin is when we go around the room in a circle with each person saying their piece. Opening round robin topics can be fun or they can be things like how labor or school is going for you.

Next is Annoucements, where members can let the house know about items of interest or importance, like upcoming events, or a guest who will be staying at the house later in the week.

After that is Appreciations & Concerns, where members can praise other members for being kind or helpful, or can mention house conditions that they're not happy with. But remember that if your concern is about a particular person, it's better to talk to that person first, and if your concern is about something that an officer is in charge of -- like the kitchen or labor -- you'll probably want to talk to that officer first.

Following Appreciations & Concerns are Officer Reports, where the house officers like the board rep and the kitchen managers update the house on the status of their areas.

Next is the Agenda Review, in which the Trustee announces all the proposals that members have submitted. Times are assigned to each item to prevent the house from talking about any one item all night, and the house decides what order they want to hear the proposals.

After the agenda review the house considers each proposal one at a time. We'll talk about the proposal process in a minute.

Following all the proposals there's generally a closing round robin.


  • Proposal process

Here's how a proposal is handled.

The trustee calls on the person making the proposal, who we'll call the proposer. The proposer describes what action or decision they want the house to agree to. Everyone should already be familiar with the proposal because it will have already been posted to the agenda board, and probably in a proposal notebook or the house email list.

After the recap of the proposal it's time for members to ask questions about the proposal if parts of it weren't clear. No debate happens yet, because it's important that everyone understands the details of the proposal before they start arguing about it.

Once all the questions have been answered then the members can start discussing it. If you agree with what someone else is saying you can show your agreement by making twinkly fingers, which saves time instead of a lot of people voicing their agreement. But if you disagree then do nothing and just wait for your turn to speak. It's considered rude to make any kind of negative hand gesture when someone is speaking.

The trustee keeps a stack which is a list of people who want to speak. To chime in on an issue then raise your hand and the trustee will point at you to let you know that they're adding you to the stack. At that point you can put your hand down, but it's not your turn to speak until the Trustee calls on you.

While discussing a proposal a member can suggest a change to the proposal, which is called an amendment. For example, if the proposal is to have a guest speaker on Tuesday at 7pm, someone could suggest an amendment to have the speaker come at 7:30pm instead.

An amendment is "friendly" if the proposer agrees to the amendment. Friendly amendments are accepted automatically and become part of the proposal.

If the proposer doesn't like the amendment then it's considered "unfriendly", which is not a judgement about the proposal, it just means that the proposer doesn't agree to it. In that case the house could attach the amendment to the proposal anyway by having a majority vote on the amendment, but usually if an amendment is unfriendly then the person offering the amendment withdraws it, because it's usually awkward to change a proposer's proposal over their objections.

Once all amendments have been made and all discussion has been concluded it's time to approve or reject the proposal. Most houses require a simple majority to pass proposals, though some houses require 2/3. Some houses also use a consensus or a modified consensus process instead of voting. With consensus the trustee asks if there are any objections. If there are no objections then the proposal passes. If there are objections then the house tries to work through those objections to come to a decision that's agreeable to everybody.

House meeting shots

What else???

back to outline


voiceover / narration


  • When and how decided
  • How much
  • Missing labor, trading
  • Consequences

Everyone in the house does about five hours of housework each week, which is called labor. Some houses call it love. Labor includes things like cooking, cleaning, shopping, and officer positions.

Labor is assigned at the first meeting of each semester, or when you move in if you move in in the middle of a semester. You'll generally get two or three small jobs which will take about an hour or two each per week. If you have some kind of problem with the job you get, talk to the Labor Czar, which is the house officer who handles labor scheduling.

If you can't do your labor one week for any reason, try to trade labor with someone else. If you do this you still need to tell the Labor Czar, and write it on the house Labor Board if your house has one.

If you miss doing your labor and didn't trade with someone then you'll have to make up that labor by doing extra labor, and there may also be a fine of either X dollars an hour for the time you missed, or even more labor. If you miss labor four times or more in a single semester the house can have a meeting to decide whether you get to keep living in the house.

Shots of labor jobs

What else???

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House Officers

voiceover / narration



House officers are in charge of the major areas of the house, like the kitchen and the labor system. They're elected at the first house meeting of each semester, and anyone can run for an officer position.


Board Rep

The first officer is the Board Rep, which represents the house on the ICC board of directors. This position usually satisfies all or most of a member's labor hours, since the weekly board and committee meetings take up a fair amount of time. The main pro is that sitting on the board of directors of a million-dollar corporation is invaluable experience, and something that most people of college age never get to do. It can also be rewarding to help steer a non-profit organization with a long history of service, to make sure it stays healthy and survives to serve future generations. The main downside is that most of your work on the board takes place outside the house, so sometimes you may feel a bit disconnected from the house.

Board meeting


The trustee facilitates house meetings, mediates conflicts between members, and oversees the other house officers. In some houses this position is combined with the Membership Officer.



The Membership Officer answers questions for prospective members, tries to keep the house full, and works with the ICC office on membership issues.

Two people talking


The treasurer keeps track of our money and pays the bills.


Kitchen Manager(s)

The kitchen manager oversees the cooks and the cleaners, makes shopping lists, and makes bulk food orders. Some houses with large kitchens have two kitchen managers.



The education officer organizes educational events such as guest speakers, workshops, and field trips, and is also the one who organizes parties.

Workshop (bike repair, knitting, juggling?)

Labor Czar/Lovemaker

The Labor Czar managers the labor system and issues fines to members who have missed labor. Since labor is called love in some houses, in those houses the Labor Czar is called the Lovemaker.

Officer reports

Officers give reports on their jobs at house meetings. Pay special attention to these reports since this is a major way you know the officers are doing their jobs. Officers are elected to serve the house, and if an officer isn't serving the house well the house can decide to elect another officer instead.

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House Money

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How much we get

After members pay their room charges to ICC, ICC gives the house back about $110 per each member for food and incidentals. That money goes into the house Checking account.



Each house has both a checking and a savings account. The checking account is used to buy food, toilet paper, and to make other small purchases.

The savings account is used for larger purchases. Many houses have a hard time growing their savings accounts because there's usually not much money left over after buying food. For a house to grow its Savings account it will be up to the house Treasurer to make a budget and transfer the extra money every month from the checking to the savings account. Savings don't happen automatically; if your treasurer doesn't manage those funds, your house will never grow its Savings account.



Most other things are paid for at the ICC level. Utility bills and major maintenance are paid with ICC funds, so the house doesn't have to budget for those things.



Kitchen managers have the authority to buy all food and supplies that the house needs, spent from the checking account.

In some houses the Maintenance Officer has a budget, say $50/mo., that they can use to buy home repair tools and supplies, spent from the house checking account.

In some houses any two officers together can approve a purchase of $25 or less.

In all other cases a house vote is required to spend money. If a member wants the house to buy a $50 food processor, or donate $35 to an organization, or get a newspaper or magazine subscription, the member should make a proposal that the house can consider at a house meeting.


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Writing up maintenance requests

If something doesn't work in the house -- either in your room or in a commons area -- write it on the Maintenance Request form posted in your house. The Maintenance Officer will review it and try to make a repair. Be sure to put your name on the request so the Maintenance Officer can talk to you if they have any questions. In some houses there are so many maintenance requests that it's not possible for the Maintenance Officer to get to them all, so in that case the officer just concentrates on the most important ones. You can't expect that every single thing will be addressed, especially if it's cosmetic in nature. But things that are threats to health or safety are always remedied, and things that are just plain broken are usually fixed.


Requesting help from the ICC Facilities Administrator

If the Maintenance Officer can't address an issue because the job is too big or requires special skills, the officer can request help from ICC's Facilities Administrator. Requests for help are always made by going to the ICC website and filling out the form there. It's never appropriate to make a request by phone or by email unless it's an emergency.


Try to resolve problems at the house before going to the website

When you have a maintenance problem in the house it's important to put it on the request form in your house or talk to your house maintenance officer first. The officer might tell you to go ahead and fill out the form on the website to request help from ICC staff, but don't fill out that form unless you've tried to get the problem solved at the house level first.

Form, talking

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Membership Review

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Most problems between members can be solved through talking and negotiation. But sometimes a problem with a member is so big that the whole house needs to talk about it. The most common reason this happens is when a member has missed a lot of labor.

When a big problem like this warrants the house's attention a special meeting is held called a Membership Review. The meeting can be called by any three house members, or certain combinations of two officers. A facilitator who doesn't know the parties involved is brought in to lead the meeting in an unbiased way. This is usually someone from one of the other houses or co-op systems.

At the meeting the people calling the meeting will state the problems they're having with the member in question. If the problem is missed labor, then the Labor Czar or Lovemaker will state the problems. The member in question will then have an opportunity to respond to the problems that were brought up.

After hearing the member's side of things if the house thinks there's really no problem they can simply adjourn the meeting. If the house does think there's a problem then it has many ways to resolve the issues, limited only by the creativity of the members.

The most drastic measure a house can take is to revoke the person's membership. This means they have to move out of the house, but they're still required to pay room charges. The reason they still have to pay is that otherwise, whenever anyone wanted to get out of their contract, they would just act outrageously so they'd be kicked out.

If the house decides to revoke someone's membership it doesn't have to take effect immediately -- the house can set any date it wants for the member to move out, such as the end of the month or the end of the semester.

A less drastic measure is to put the member on probation. This means that they get to stay in the house but they can't sign a new contract for the upcoming term until the house votes to remove them from probation.

The house can also take any other number of gentler approaches. The house can suggest a compromise or request that the member complete some tasks, and that if that happens then all is forgiven, and that if not, then other consequences automatically kick in, such as probation or moving out.

Complete details about the Membership Review process are listed on the ICC website.


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Solving Problems

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Don't rush to proposal

Problems are a fact of life, but there's a right and wrong way to deal with them. In this section we'll see what we can do to solve problems, and why some ways are better than others.

Putting an item on the agenda for a house meeting is usually the wrong way to deal with a problem, if it's the first thing you did about the problem. House meetings are a great way to solve problems, but only if other avenues have failed first. Let's look at some of those ways.

Talking head

Agenda board


"The house never buys the kinds of food I want to eat, or there's never enough, or I have an allergy, or blah blah blah."

If you have a food request then write it on the request sheet in the kitchen. If that doesn't solve the problem then talk to the Kitchen Manager. If you're not happy with the response from the kitchen manager, THEN you can put the item on the agenda for a house meeting.

Talking head, request sheet, KM


"My ceiling fan doesn't work, or my door doesn't lock properly, or an electrical outlet is dangling in my room, or my window won't open, or my air conditioner won't turn on, or there's a leak...."

Write your request on the maintenance request sheet. If your problem isn't addressed soon then talk to your house maintenance officer. If you're not satisfied with the response from the maintenance officer, THEN you can go to the ICC website and fill out a Maintenance Request Form.

Maintenance request sheet


"Randall has porch clean but he's only cleaned the porch once all semester."

Some houses have a Labor Board where you can write when you notice that someone else hasn't done their labor. If your house doesn't have one then talk to the Labor Czar or Lovemaker. Usually when you have a problem with someone it's best to talk to them directly, but in the case of labor it's not your job to hassle people about their labor, it's the Labor Czar's job.

Labor board, talking

Room charges

"I don't know how much I owe, because there was this thing like how I owed such and such amount of money, but then like paid the wrong about, so then like I wrote another check but that check was for too much so I had some credit, but then I had some kind of fine, and then they changed the currency conversion rate or something...."

The amount that each member owes is posted on the member bulletin board in your house. You can get up-to-date info on your balance by calling the ICC office. They can also answer any questions about your contract.

Balances sheet, telephone, Suellen

Creepy people

"Dude, like there's this dude in the commons who I've never seen before and he's asking me if I want to buy mushrooms and he's all creepy and stuff."

Kindly ask unknown people who they're visiting. If they're visiting a member then confirm that with that member, and if that member isn't home then feel free to ask the visitor to wait outside. If the visitor isn't visiting anyone in particular, feel free to ask them to leave, and call the police if they don't.

Be careful, because you don't want to act aggressive to a member's legitimate guest. But if you can't confirm that someone is truly another member's guest then you're well within your rights to ask them to leave the house.

Creepy guy getting challenged and kicked out


"Laura is always talking smack about me, or she's always leaving junk around the commons, or she's always playing loud music, or she's always touching my butt, or..."

The best way to resolve a problem with another member is to talk to that member. Leaving notes often just makes the problem worse, a face to face meeting is best. If you're uncomfortable talking to another member directly, ask the Trustee to mediate. If you're really uncomfortable talking to the other member then the Trustee may be willing to talk to the other member for you. In extreme cases, you can call for a Membership Review meeting.

Talk, talk, talk

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Changing things at the ICC level

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If there's something you want to change all across ICC, then the board is where that happens, because it's the board that sets ICC-wide policy.

Proposals are submitted by board reps and by Coordinators. Talk to a board rep or a coordinator about your idea and try to get them to sponsor your idea. If you can't get your own board rep to sponsor the idea, go to a board meeting and see if any other board member will bring your proposal.

Proposals are usually sent to a committee for review before the board makes a decision on the proposal.

If you're really unhappy with the direction that ICC is going then you can run for a position on the board yourself, either as a board rep or a Coordinator.

Finally, if the board passes a really unpopular measure, the members have the power to overturn that decision through a special election called a referendum. Since we're a co-op the members have the final say in all matters. We elect the board of directors because it's more efficient for 16 people to meet rather than having 189 debate every decision, but if we think the board is acting contrary to the will of the membership, then the members can reverse any board action through a referendum.


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We hope this video has been helpful in getting you acquanted with your new co-op. In summary:

  • The #1 way to keep ICC affordable is to keep the houses full
  • 20% of your room charges goes towards food
  • Kick creepy people out
  • Don't burn your house down
  • Go to meetings
  • Don't put food in the sink
  • Laura is always touching Don's butt


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