SA votes to revive student tenant union

By Matt Gilbert

A once powerful student organization is about to return from beyond the grave. At its Sunday night meeting the Student Association voted to revive its old tenant union.

The union would act as an advocate for students who rent off-campus housing. It will be charged with safeguarding tenants’ rights, including quality of service, living conditions, safety and adherence to lease agreements.

The two goals of the revived union include giving students vital information in making rental choices as well as some negotiating power.

“I think this is real necessary,” said SA Community Affairs Adviser Eric Grice. “I’ve received numerous complaints from tenants. Since I can’t take any legal action, this is probably the best way to get things done.”

The union will keep track of available rental units in the DeKalb area. It will investigate and mediate disputes between landlords and tenants and will conduct annual housing bazaars.

It also will rate property management organizations in terms of quality and value, and release a report to the general student population.

Grice said he plans to involve not only the student tenants and their landlords in the process, but also DeKalb city officials as well as Students’ Legal Services.

SA Public Relations adviser Anna Bicanic said, “Right now, if people are not satisfied with something that’s going on, they don’t feel like there is any place they can go to get some satisfaction.”

NIU’s tenant union disappeared from the public record in 1989. At that time it was recovering from the controversy of publicly sponsoring a pornographic film show, and a controversy erupted over the advisers’ pay.

Grice said according to Don Henderson, director of Students’ Legal Assistance, the idea to revive the union has come up every year since the union disbanded. The drive would always come from the SA Community Affairs adviser, but there was never a strong base to continue the effort year after year.

Grice asked the SA to add the duties of the union to the SA’s bylaws to establish a strong base, which they officially did at Sunday’s meeting.

For further information on the tenant union, Grice encouraged students to stop in the SA office in the Holmes Student Center, south entrance second floor.

Also at the meeting, the SA elected senator Harry Kontos to be Senate Speaker. The Senate Speaker follows the SA vice president in succession.

The speaker also sits on the standards committee, which is charged with assisting the organization and the recognition of student groups. The standards committee also hears complaints against all recognized student organizations.

Kontos served on the SA senate for one semester last year. He has a four-year membership in Model Illinois Government, including a year as president of the NIU delegation. He also has been chosen to be a student representative on the University Council.

The next SA senate meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 17, in the Clara Sperling Sky Room of the student center. All students are invited to attend.