MSA has abandoned the best interests of Ann Arbor tenants
To the Daily:
As the counseling director of the Ann Arbor Tenants Union, I am extremely displeased with the Michigan Student Assembly’s frequent mischaracterization of our organization.
For over 30 years, the AATU has served University students and the Ann Arbor community by informing tenants of their rights and protecting them from corrupt landlord practices. Now, MSA is using its “mandate” of student opinion (obtained through less than a quarter of the student vote) to deny the AATU funding for Winter semester. This action will have the immediate effect of denying University students benefits they have enjoyed long before any current MSA member was even born.
MSA attempts to justify this decision with a series of statistics comparing the AATU’s spending with the number of students we counsel per month. This statistic is terribly misleading because direct counseling constitutes a mere fraction of the services we provide. The AATU has spoken at numerous residence hall events, set up counseling tables at the Michigan Union, and distributed hundreds of pamphlets helping University students rent an apartment for the first time.
Furthermore, the majority of our spending results from MSA’s decision to kick the AATU out of its office in the Union last spring. This action had two devastating consequences for the AATU. First, it decreased our intake by moving us to an unfamiliar location in the William Monroe Trotter House. Second, it required us to reprint all of our materials with the new AATU phone number and address. Leave it to MSA to punch a hole in the ship, and then blame the captain when it sinks.
By effectively destroying the Ann Arbor Tenants Union, this year’s MSA will establish a shameful legacy, and deprive Michigan tenants of an important ally for years to come.
Director of Counseling
Ann Arbor Tenants Union
Student Legal Services is not a viable substitute for the role of the AATU
To the Daily:
I was saddened to come across Joe Bernstein’s comment comparing Student Legal Services to the Ann Arbor Tenants Union in the Daily, AATU fights to keep funding, (02/12/03). He might believe that SLS is superior to the AATU because it supposedly “provides the same thing better and for free,” but if SLS were to completely take over the AATU’s tenant counseling duties, it would deprive many enthusiastic and interested students like myself of the opportunity to counsel other students on important and prevalent matters.
Mostly out of an interest in law and counseling, and partly out of a feeling of exploitation by a former landlord, I started volunteering with the AATU in October. I am proud to be part of the diligent team of people who has counseled every single student who has requested help in the past four months. Being able to learn about landlord-tenant laws and applying that knowledge to assist my peers has been a gratifying experience, and has served as preparation for me and my possible future in law.
The fact that Student Legal Services is staffed by lawyers rather than students does not necessarily make it a better resource for students than the AATU. Aside from giving students the chance to volunteer and gain experience in counseling, the AATU allows student tenants to approach peers who specialize in landlord-tenant laws with problems and questions that do not require the assistance of a lawyer. My only hope is that MSA will realize how incredible and valuable the AATU is for student tenants and volunteers alike.