After almost 35 years serving students and residents in Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor Tenants Union will close up shop at the end of the month. Conceived in 1968 during the aftermath of a massive student strike protesting excessive local rents, the organization provided Ann Arborites with information, advice and legal help for the inevitable housing disputes that plague so many students’ experiences at the University. In a city notorious for a poor quality of student housing, the AATU has been desperately needed in order to protect students and other Ann Arbor residents.

The AATU’s ignominious death comes after a checkered few years for the organization. Last year, the AATU was forced to move from its location at the heart of central campus in the Michigan Union to the William Monroe Trotter House. Simultaneously, the agency received a majority of student votes in Michigan Student Assembly elections to increase the student fee by $1 to support the AATU’s operations. But, even with the mandate of students, the University Board of Regents failed to increase the student fee and the AATU was unable to save itself from its bleak financial situation. This sets a bad precedent on campus. Elected MSA officials and the regents have the responsibility to represent students, not to disregard their wishes. Just this semester, relations between MSA and the AATU were reduced to a squabbling fit, as MSA refused to give the union the funding that the student body voted to have the assembly allocate.

The disintegration of the AATU does not signify merely the demise of one of a student service; it represents the demise of Ann Arbor’s most effective advocacy group for tenants. Despite claims that Student Legal Services will act as a viable alternative to the AATU, there remains no other similar organization in the entire city. Ann Arbor residents who are not University students have been left without representation as well.

The appeal of the AATU is that it is a student-run organization, easily accessible to the student body. Students may not want to seek professional legal assistance every time they have a grievance with their landlords. In addition, students are not aware of these alternative options. As a result, it is likely that students’ rights will be violated because of the loss of the AATU.

Hopefully, SLS will be able to fill the gap left by the absence of the AATU. Students and Ann Arbor residents deserve and have the right to be represented when dealing with their landlords. It is futile to assign blame to specific groups at this point, as there is more than enough to go around. It is clear, however, that it will be students who suffer from this untidy morass.

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