They weren't attending a straight university
June 12, 2012 9:01 PM Subscribe
From 1968 to 1975, Rochdale College
existed as co-op housing and as an experimental college, affiliated with the University of Toronto. Before it closed, it was the largest free university in North America.
Rochdale was an 18-story building
, near Yorkville
, built in a combination of regular apartments and communal living spaces known as ashrams. The ashrams were groups of apartments with shared dining facilities and washrooms, collectively responsible for rent and upkeep. Decision-making was through consensus and multiple models were tried, in an attempt to maintain the project's ideals while cutting down on how many meetings went until the small hours of the morning.
Education at Rochdale was built around a freeform model. The college ran its own radio station
and had several studios, but anyone could start a discussion seminar and anyone could participate. It also served as a haven for American draft dodgers and as a major centre for anti-Vietnam War organisation.
By the early 70s, though, Rochdale was well-known as a major hub of drug distribution in Toronto. While the stated intent
of people like Rosie Rowbotham
was to perform a public service, making sure that people could get drugs safely and easily, the college became increasingly tied to biker gangs, especially the Vagabonds, who offered security services while using several floors of the building to sell drugs.
In 1975, the last of the residents were removed
, and the doors welded shut.
A University of Toronto media project, interviewing former residents: Part 1
, Part 2
, Part 3
, Part 4
Pictures of Rochdale, from the York University archives