The Zoe Bayliss Women’s Cooperative is one of the few remaining student housing co-op in the state of Wisconsin. As plans for the construction of new Levy Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison grow ever-nearer, the future of the co-op, at its current location, remains hanging in the balance.
The new Levy Hall is part of the 2015 campus master plan, and requires the tearing-down of both the Zoe Bayliss Co-Op and Davis Residence Hall. This means the residents of the co-op, which has been independent since 1954, will need to find a space to relocate to.
Though University Relations Specialist Greg Bump said that talks between the university and the Co-Op have been ongoing for years to find solutions, getting to that point wasn’t easy.
Angela Maloney, president of the cooperative, said that they weren’t formally told they were being evicted after the 2022-23 school year until the fall of 2021.
“Initially, the University had no plans whatsoever to compensate our community or provide for us what they were displacing,” said Maloney.
She quoted an email she received from a university housing representative, telling her to “look for space in the private market [and that] there are no options on campus.”
UW Housing eventually offered them a space in Phillips Hall, according to an April 11 email statement from the assistant vice chancellor of university communications John Lucas. The plan would be to renovate a part of the first floor to make it a suitable place to host a cooperative community, with space for 34 residents.
Bump explained that the arrangement would work similarly to the arrangement with their current building, with financial power over things like setting rent rates, leasing arrangements and the hiring of a private chef.
The cooperative ultimately voted against accepting this proposal, which Maloney clarified as including a raise of $20,000 in the rent price for a 9 month period. She also emphasized that the cooperative was told there was just a “60% chance the space would be ready for fall 2023.”
Because current rent at Zoe Bayliss is 48% of dorm rates on campus, the increase in price was a no-go, said Maloney. Among other important aspects for Zoe Bayliss is their own stand-alone building, where they can have complete control over finances and decisions as a community, as they have in their current location.
University Housing has said that it has intentions to go forward with plans to renovate Phillips Hall into a cooperative-style community, no matter whether Zoe Bayliss ultimately decides to go to Phillips or not.
“UW-Madison does not have plans or an obligation to provide other alternative housing options for this group of students,” the university stated.
Maloney, while detailing the discussions with the university, reported that herself and others have been told in meetings with housing to be “not so emotional” when discussing plans for the future of the cooperative.
“Housing representatives have gone months without returning our emails,” Maloney continued. “It was not until, as president of Zoe Bayliss, I took the initiative to set up meetings with housing leadership to press upon them the importance of maintaining our community that they even started offering any kind of alternatives.”
Zoe Bayliss continues to call for the university to provide them a space to replace their building, or at least funding to help the cooperative find a space on the private market for the community.
“Our talks with university housing have been incredibly frustrating,” Maloney said. “Our community deserves better than this.”
Supporters of Zoe Bayliss can get involved by signing the petition to save the cooperative, as well as attending a community get-together and fundraiser at the Zoe Bayliss building on April 26 at 6 p.m.
Editor's note: This story was updated at 2:27 p.m. on Monday, April 18, 2022, to correctly reflect that the Zoe Bayliss Cooperative is one of the few remaining student cooperatives, not the only one.