COPAS Gives Community Intentional Focus

“We say that our curriculum is built on the 3 C’s: classroom, co-op & community but the only two that [were] institutionally recognized [were] classroom and co-op”, said Community Manager Chelsea Martens.

COPAS (Community Organization, Participation and Service) is a mandatory class that gives students credit and support for community involvement. Through the framework of COPAS, students work as receptionists and techies, and provide studying assistance to fellow students. Students, also coordinate Nonstop Presents events, community lunches and the food pantry. Coordinators of the Independent Groups (IG’s), such as the Alternative Library and the Queer Center, are supported and credited through COPAS as well.

In addition to job supervisors, every student has a COPAS faculty advisor who helps the student analyze the decision-making structures and partnerships involved in their job and reflect on the impact of their work.

The work commitment is only one part of COPAS. As Martens explained at the February 9th meeting, “COPAS also aims to, empower and enhance the work that everyone’s doing regarding community, so that it’s done… in more of a thoughtful manner, but also in a way that enhances your ability not only to do community organizing at Antioch… but so we develop skills that transfer into other organizations…. Community organizing isn’t something you just know. It’s something you have to do with a lot of intentionality; it has to be done responsibly.”

Due to COPAS’ intentional focus on process and facilitation, Community Manager Meghan Pergrem said there has recently been more curiosity about her responsibilities as a community manager. As she is carrying out her duties she is explaining the purpose and thought behind them, so that her part of the process is understood. People who are thinking critically about facilitation will be able to work better together and help refine the process, when necessary said Pergrem.

Previously, the work students did for Nonstop was paid through tuition remission. This amounted to “institutional classism because … those who already had to work… and were struggling financially would have even more hours of work than those who were more privileged,” according to student Jeanne Kay. It flattened the value of community participation by “linking it with financial need”.

ExCil approved a new tuition policy where work would not be tied to tuition, but ExCil members insisted that there be a work requirement nonetheless. When the Work Project was ratified in ExCil, there was no defining structure aside from a policy requiring a certain hourly contribution based upon a specific status of enrollment, full time four hours and half time two hours, says ExCil member Michael Casselli. The Work Project was then referred to ExCil’s Curriculum Committee for further development. Casselli said he was unsettled by a “transformation” of the policy without the proper authority or communication. According to CM Chelsea Martens who participated in the drafting of COPAS, issues of jurisdiction made it impossible to bring COPAS as a class to ExCil since Faculty controls curriculum.

Student Lincoln Alpern commented, “This is an opportunity for me to articulate and work on how I contribute and participate in community.”