The Ann Arbor Tenants Union, an organization on which many students and Ann Arbor residents depend, may be on its last legs. The AATU is currently ensnared in a funding crisis that could lead to the end of the venerable Ann Arbor institution. This turn of events is especially odd as last year, 58 percent of the electorate in Michigan Student Assembly elections voted for a proposals increasing funding to the AATU through a $1 tuition increase per student. The situation has been the inadvertent result of miscommunication, incompetence and the shirking of responsibilities.
The situation began to unravel last year when an MSA representative told the administration that the proposal to fund the AATU needed a supermajority in order to pass, which is not the case under MSA’s internal rules. Following this event the administration stalled and refused to bring the $1 student fee increase to the University Board of Regents for its possible approval. With the administration content to deny the AATU the opportunity to receive its funding, the board acted against the spirit of the student body’s opinion.
The AATU’s problems, however, did not end there. Last year a joint MSA-Michigan Union administration committee, OSAC, kicked the AATU out of its space in the Union. At the time, OSAC member Peter Apel said of the union, “AATU is not a true student group in that it does not have student leadership, because it is run by an employee, they’re more like an organization masquerading as a student group.” The attitude embodied by Apel speaks to the acute lack of understanding that many members of the University community display toward the AATU. Yet, the AATU’s travails have continued. Even more recently, the AATU got into a disagreement with MSA over its funding contract. There have even been calls for the AATU to dissolve into Student Legal Services.
The deleterious effects of uncertain funding has initiated a vicious cycle, hurting the AATU’s effectiveness while simultaneously leading some students to believe that the organization is inherently ineffectual. The AATU must be given a stable monetary outlook so that it can host advocacy programs and provide effective and adequate counseling for students and Ann Arbor community members. The AATU has provided an important mechanism for the resolution of pressing housing problems in the past and should continue to provide these services.
Current MSA representatives need to work to prevent this potential disaster from unfolding. If the AATU were to become extinct this year, it would be a black mark on the legacy of MSA and would drastically after the nature of the relationship between Ann Arbor realtors and their tenants. Because the AATU is the most influential advocate of tenants’ rights in the city, it must reform and regain the confidence of both the administration and MSA. The student body deserves better than the bickering that is dominating the debate.