A quick, honest run down on the Co-op personalities/experiences/stereotypes. This information has been gleaned from both friends and personal experience during five of the last seven years:So there you have it folks: pretty hilarious, potentially offensive. Makes me realize that it's been a long time since I've been to a Co-op party. Maybe that's a good thing. Gentle readers, does CoopInsider's summary of the Co-op personalities/stereotypes agree with your experiences? Please share your 2 cents. UPDATE--16 Jan--2013:
Baker: Graduate students, mostly. If you want a traditional co-op with peace, it's a good one to go to.
North Campus: Graduate students, engineers, international students, and other eclectic Ann Arborites. Maybe a bit dirty and more disorganized sometimes, but that depends on a) your personal effort and b) which house you live in. Also, it's a bit inconvenient if your work is on Central Campus--it may mean taking a bus full of freshmen on a regular basis.
King: Personal apartments in Kerrytown. More expensive, much less community.
I have highlighted those three above because they would be the best fit for most Graduate students. However, because I don't know what you're looking for exactly, and because I want to entertain others, I shall proceed...
Black Elk: Remember that night in college where you did a bunch of acid with your friends and woke up the next morning naked in a bath tub next to a thirty-three year old college dropout? If so, that night probably began at Black Elk. That said, a number of Sober Sallies have lived there over the years and done just fine. Vegan. Awesome fire pit in the back. Even if it had a weekly Molly Maids visit, it would still be dirty. Occasional orgies. If you do not like nudity and don't believe Bush was behind 9/11, you may not fit in here. Debs: Imagine Black Elk, except slightly fewer hard drugs and slightly more trashy sex. Also, I do not believe a Sober Sally has ever lived at Debs and lived to tell the tale.
Gregory: So Gregory is allegedly the "clean" co-op--as in, free of drugs, free of hippies, just a bunch of la-dee-da wholesome fun. That is not the full story. Because they fear bringing illicit drugs into the house, residents have been known to abuse prescription drugs. Some international presence in the past, but maybe not so much anymore as a waitlist develops for the house rather quickly. I've known a lot of weird people to have lived here over the years. They'd call themselves "quirky", but I'd just call them weird. Make of that what you will.
Lester: Vegetarian. Very open-minded. Only occasionally has parties, but they're good and chill when they do. They used to have a garden where they grew some vegetables and herbs, but I think that's fallen through in recent years. Now, all this being said, this house has a tendency to have drama! A rumor once existed that one year residents banned the word "fat" and gender-specific pronouns; never had it confirmed. Some drama always happens in co-ops, but I heard rumors of some people really not getting along in recent years and even resulted in people asking to leave or people asking others to be kicked out. In a few words, nice, friendly people, but may come with baggage/high-school-esque drama.
Linder: Don't know a lot about Linder to comment. I heard one year that the President was a total dick who made life a nightmare for residents, but I'm assuming he's not President anymore.
Luther: So let's pretend you secretly wish you rushed a fraternity in college, but really didn't want to because you fear becoming "the man." Good news for you: there is Luther House! This behemoth of a house (actually two houses) has crazy parties in which the common rooms of the main house get trashed. Lots of local bands play here, as well as at Vail and Nakamura (see below). More good news? You can avoid most of the mess by living in the house next door. Halloween here is out of control. Has a bit of a relationship with the nearby "metal frat" as some call it. Never saw their kitchen clean once in my life. If I were to describe this house's personality, it would be a hangover.
Michigan: Party house! Always runs out of alcohol, though, but the dance music goes all night. Probably one of the more drama-free houses, but their counterpart (Minnie's, see below) makes up for that. The people here tend to be quite chill, though slightly pretentious. If you wanted a fun house to live in that is more undergraduate-oriented, I would choose Mich.
Minnie's: In the past, people were always moving out of Minnie's. This may be because it's quite dependent on Michigan--you have to board at Michigan for meals. However, something about this place makes people just not get along. I've never understood it! Haven't been in touch with the house for a while now, though, so I may be wrong.
Nakamura: This house used to be a train wreck, with everything from hard drugs being dealt out of it to rape accusations and a serious culture of misogyny. From what I've heard, it's chilled out a lot in recent years, but only after the ICC threatened to shut it down if it didn't clean up its act. Always has great parties, usually with Ann Arbor's best local bands, but their parties also always get out of control, sometimes with the police getting involved. Very similar to Luther, in some ways.
Osterweil: Very small and very quiet. Whenever I visited this house, I sometimes questioned if anyone actually lived there. But people do! Some of them are strange--usually people who just want a cheap place to live. From what I've heard, it makes it hard to run an efficient operation. Really, how good this house is in any given year entirely depends on how willing its residents are to make the effort to make the house work.
Owen: Had a trampoline; not sure if it still does. It was great to get drunk and jump on at parties! Friendly quirky people and attracts some international students. I've always felt Owen was one of the more diverse houses that still stayed true to a social justice-y lifestyle. Their parties used to be the shit, but the last I heard, they've gone downhill a bit in recent years. Usually a lot of dance music and people getting shirtless. Went to a pretty hilarious 70s Porn Party there once--and people took the costumes quite seriously! Maybe that gives a better sense of the house than anything else.
Ruths: Small. Used to be falling apart/dirty/really not a place you want to live, but I've been told it's gotten better in recent years. Like Osterweil, this house is really what the residents make of it. They throw small parties--nothing to write home about, and are a bit more insular (only people who know someone who lives there go there).
Truth: Big, confused, and out of control! Lots of international students and people who just couldn't find housing. At one point, risked getting shut down simply because they couldn't fill up the rooms. So many people live here, there isn't really a distinct personality...really just an eclectic bunch of people who ended up living at Truth for whatever reason.
Oh, Vail! Where do I begin? My first association with Vail will always be lesbians. Lots and lots of horny lesbians. They are also vegetarian only and, as previously noted, very LGBT friendly. Probably the most pretentious and hipster of the co-ops. Allegedly, at a house meeting once, they played spin-the-bottle as an ice breaker. They have a basement where they can have shows and not easily get a noise violation, so expect the parties to happen. The wine flows freely at Vail, as does microbrew beer and PBR. If you live in Vail, the probability of you sleeping with a housemate increases by approximately 70%. They had cats, once--not sure if they still do. Just as political a place as Black Elk; support destruction of the patriarchy or GTFO. All this said, some of the most fun and interesting people from my college years, I met at Vail. I do not regret anything.
So there you have it! A rundown on all the co-ops, based on what I've heard and some of my experiences. I hope this can help you and others in the search for a place to live. Because of the nature of the information, some of it may be heresay, so don't sue me if I said something wrong. Feel free to correct me in a reply. However, I think anyone who has been involved with the co-op scene in Ann Arbor knows that these descriptions, for the most part, are fairly accurate.
Decided to post this on a throwaway in case my perspective revealed too much personal information.
Thanks everyone for your comments. I have posted a more recent description of life at Black Elk that specifically addresses some of the dated information presented in this article. Here it is.