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September 16, 1977 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1977-09-16

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Page 4-Friday, September 16 1977-The Michigan Doily

Some tenants stick


for their rights


The Traver Knoll apartment com-
plex is a group of squat, uniform,
modern buildings situated on some
pleasant green -acreage on Ann
Arbor's north side. A quiet, trickling
stream runs past some of the build-
ings, and the land is draped by nu-
merous large weeping willows.,
The place seems almost idyllic -
on the surface. But go inside any of
the buildings in the Traver Knoll I
section of the complex, and you'll see
signs that it's not an ideal place to
live. The doors to many of the apart-
ments are plastered with bright yel-
low posters bearing the logo of the
Ann Arbor Tenants Union, reading,
"On strike for better conditions!"
TRAVER KNOLL I tenants have
been on rent strike since December,
in an effort to force landlady Esther
Snyder, of the Snyder Rentals com-
pany to get necessary maintenance
work done. Fifty-two of the 112
apartments at Traver Knoll I are on
rent strike. And another 23 of the 112
apartments are vacant, because the
city, acknowledging the validity of
the tenants' complaints-about main-
tenance, has prohibited Snyder from
allowing any new tenants to move
into three of the four buildings at
Traver Knoll I.
Snyder has offered to pay the.

tenants cash to end the strike - she
has offered a $50,000 settlement to the
union. But the tenants have stood fast
for their demands, which include
better maintenance and union recog-
In recent weeks, Snyder has fought
it out in court with four of her tenants
over the rent money which the
tenants have placed in escrow - and
Snyder lost each of the four cases.
The court ordered the landlady to
pay a total of $6,390 to the four ten-
ants; the money represents rent re-
funds, and payments for the tenants'
IT WAS A long list of maintenance
problems, coupled with the land-
lady's unwillingness to deal with the
problems, that forced the Traver
Knoll tenants to organize a rent
strike. One of the tenants' typical
maintenance gripes is that there has
been a short supply of hot water in all
four buildings of Traver Knoll I. At
times of the day when hot water is
used most - for example, in the
morning, when many people are
taking showers - taps opened up all
the way will only give a trickle of
warm water. The problem is due to
the water pipes being clogged with
caked lime. Recently Snyder re-
placed the water pipes in Building
One, alleviating the problem there.
But the hot water shortage persists in
the other three buildings.

The apartment windows are a
source of many complaints. Some of
them don't seal tightly, so they let in
rain in the summer and snow in the
winter. Other windows close too
tightly. Sharon Quinn, the Tenants
Union coordinator for Traver Knoll,
complains that in the winter her win-
dows are usually so thickly laden
with ice that they are frozen shut. "If
there was a fire or some other emerg-
ency," she notes, "and you couldn't
get through the front door of the
apartment, you'd have to break the
window to get out - the ice gets that
thick. And when it starts to melt with
the changing weather, it melts down
the walls, which brings mold."
And then there's the problem of
bugs. Tenants complain that silver-
fish are common in some apart-
ments, and there are also some
roaches, ants, and millipedes.
THE LIST GOES ON - there are
complaints about faulty locks on
apartment doors and main doors to
buildings, lack of snow removal ser-
vice, faulty air conditioning, and
dampness in apartments which
causes mold to grow in all kinds of
nooks and crannys. But the tenants
see their problem as being more than
just the sum of their specific mainte-
nance problems. Snyder, they assert,
just doesn't care to see to it that de-
cent maintenance service is pro-
vided. The specific maintenance

deficiencies don't bother them so
much as the fact that their com-
plaints seem to fall on deaf ears.
Maintenance is not the only issue
about which the tenants are dissatis-
fied. They also complain that Snyder
fixes the levels of rent for the Traver
Knoll apartments in an arbitrary
fashion. Quinn points out that while
she pays $270 per month for her
two-bedroom apartment, two other
identical apartments in the complex
rent for $255 and $240. And Quinn
adds there is one tenant who rents an
apartment which is comparable to
her own second floor unit, except for
the fact that her neighbor's place is
on the ground floor and is located
near'the parking lot. Quinn remarks
that one would expect such an
apartment to be cheaper than her
own - but in fact Snyder charges
more money for that apartment: $300
per month.
The tenants maintain the reason
for the disparity in rents is that
. Snyder sets rents according to her
whim. "It isn't contingent on how
long you've lived here," says Quinn.
Notes tenant Jeff Maxwell, "She's
charged lower rents from people who
have moved in later."
ATTORNEY DON Greenspon, who
represents the Traver Knoll tenants,
suggests that the sluggishness of the
maintenance service Snyder pro-
vides is a reflection of the landlady's

desire to save money. Says Green-
spon, "The maintenance problem is
so severe that it's going to be very
expensive. She's got all these stopgap
measures that are a lot less expen-
sive than what the city inspectors
want her to do. The place was built
very poorly, so it's really going to be
expensive to fix it the way it should
be fixed. Plus, there's the fact that
she didn't do anything for so long."
In past months, Snyder has order-
ed some considerable repairs done on
Building One of Traver Knoll I. This
has motivated the city to lift for that
building the prohibition it had placed
on all of Traver Knoll I against
admitting any new tenants. The
city's rationale is that Snyder has
shown "good faith" in having the
Building One maintenance work
done. Says Greenspon, "For Building
One she's done a lot of repairs. But
there are still a lot left to be done."
Greenspon notes that during the
month of August, he presented
Snyder with an "offer of settlement"
on behalf of the tenants. "It was a
collective bargaining contract," he
says. "It included recognition of the
Traver Knoll Tenants Union; it
included an agency shop, which'
meant that everybody in the complex
would have to join the union or pay a
service fee; it specified the tenants'
right to strike; it provided for a

time-table of maintenance; it provid
ed for rent reductions for inconveni
"SHE REJECTED the offer," say
Greenspon. "She offered a $50,00
cash settlement." Greenspon and th
tenants rejected the cash offer.
Offering the cash was not much'of a
concession, the attorney says7 be
cause "she would be able to increas
the rents in the future and recoup th
$50,000 easily that way. She ha
re-rented apartments in Buildin
One recently and increased the ren
by something like $50 a month."
Greenspon adds, "A lot of wha
we're demanding is difficult to put
money tag on, like union recogniton
She may feel that giving in to,,u
demands is going to be devastating t
her business. I don't think it is.
think she's blowing it way out of pro
Snyder could not be reached fo
The Traver Knoll tenants, lik
Greenspon, are firm in holding ou
for a fair settlement. But they'd lik
the settlement to come as quicky a
possible. Says Galante, "This coul
be the finest place in the city. It's o
beautiful property. If only we cgul
get some good maintenance."




Eighty-Eight Years of Editorial Freedom
420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109




Vol. LXXXVIII, No. 8

News Phone: 764-0552


Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan
Night Owl Buses should ride again


IT'S MIDNIGHT, and you, a 20-year-
old female student are alone outside
the Graduate Library. How do you get
If you're smart, you've already called
for a ride or arranged ahead of time to
meet a friend. If you're lucky, you've
got a car or a bicycle. But if you're
neither, you take your chances walking
home alone at night in Ann Arbor, a city
which, despite its charm in the daytime,
has a bad reputation after dark.
Rape is something that happens a lot
here. The police, the University and the
city fathers don't talk about it much, but
a series of seemingly related assaults on
women last fall -16 in all - brought the
issue out in the open again - what was
to be done?
At that time, the University moved
quickly to institute a system of night
buses, the Night Owl Buses, which pro-
vided students with late night transpor-
tation to and from campus.
The system was efficient, necessary
and well-used up until the end of classes
in April. When the weather warmed up
and the students left town, the Night
Owls were quietly phased out and the
city's rape problem slipped* quietly to
the back of the public mind.

NOW THAT FALL has returned Uni-
versity officials are debating
whether to reinstate the night buses,
possibly around October 15.
"I don't know if I want to wait that
long," University Security Chief Fred
Davids said yesterday. "If ther's some
guy waiting in the bushes, he's not nec-
essarily going to wait until October 15."
We couldn't agree more. Although po-
lice have apprehended Robert Finklea,
the man they suspect is responsible for
at .least some of last fall's rapes, the
threat of future assaults still exists. The
Night Owl buses should roll again, the
sooner the better.
KATHY HENNEGHAN............................Sports Editor
TOM CAMERON .................Executive Sports Editor
SCOTT LEWIS ...................... Managing Sports Editor
DON MacLACHLAN...................Associate Sports Editor
Contributing Editors
NIGHT EDITORS: Ernie Dunbar, Henry Engelhardt, Rick Mad-
dock, Bob Miller, Patrick Rode, Cub Schwartz.
ASST. NIGHT EDITORS: Jeff Frank, CindyGatziolis, Mike
Hal p in, Brian Martin, Brian Miller, Dave Renbarger, Errol
Shifmanand Jamie Turner
BRAD BENJAMIN ...................... Staff Photographer
JOHN KNOX.......................Staff Photographer
CHRISTINA SCHNEIDER....................Staff Photographer

NEW YORK, Sept. 8-
Edward Donohue is an am;
old who was graduated from.
Copiague Senior High Schoo
But Edward had great diffi
hending his diploma becau
read beyond a fourth-grade1
The plight of Edward D
rare: The national center
statistics estimates that 346,
uates - 11 per cent of June 19
graduates - are functionally
Chicanos and poor whites. B
ward Donohue, for examp
white middle-class Long Isla
what makes Donohue diffe
is suing his school system fo
malpractice. He wants $5 m:
may be a lifelong disability.
"I look at the want ads to fi
says, "and I can't read them
IF DONOHUE wins, there
an avalanche of educationa
suits throughout the nation.
may have a persuasive case
In the early grades, his
asking teachers to get extra
son because his reading dif
already obvious. She was p
help regularly, she says, butl
received it. Nor was he everI
logical tests for possible lea
ties. And even though he fai
his sophomore and junior y
was routinely promoted.
Donohue's lawyer, Sidney
the case is based on the alleg
of the school system and on
broken contract.
"MS. DONOHUE and her
taxes and they are charged
sum of money each year for
of their children," says S
claim that during all those ye
education taxes, there was
promise that the school syste
cate their son. This was notc
Should the doctrine of edt
practice become law, millic
sters might have similar cau
The National Assessment o
Progress estimates that one

but le can
FF school graduates can't read well enough to wished tor
make out a simple traffic sign. ed there is
James Harris, former president of the than 15 per
liable 19-year- National Education Association, told a be failures
Long Island's Senate subcommittee two years ago that 23 The edu
I in June 1976. per cent of all schoolchildren were failing only one r
culty compre- to get through high school. critics con
se he cannot fessionals
level. "IF 23 PER CENT of the automobiles did looking at
onohue is not not run," Harris said, "23 per cent of the ure, which
for education buildings fell down, '23 per cent of the that educa
000 new grad- stuffed ham spoiled - we'd look at the pro- ity.
I77 high school ducer. The schools, here, are not blame-
y illiterate. less." ONCE H"
But so far most schools have escaped year prob
Mks, Hispanics, blame. In a 1972 San Francisco case, a most immu
ut not all. Ed- Peter Doe sued for fraud on the grounds manent te
le, is from a that, though promoted every year, he was unions, m
ind family. reading on a fifth-grade level when he re- costly to t
rent is that he ceived his high school diploma. for causet
or educational He lost his case when the courts held given up tr
illion for what there are so many intangibles involved in EstherI
why some people learn and some do not school prin
ind a job," he that the schools cannot be held responsi- Troubled7
3." ble. thousands(
should not
could well be BUT IN ANOTHER case, a 23-year-old has put tea
1 malpractice Queens, N.Y., man won a $750,000 settle- to their jo
And Donohue ment against the board of education. (The
. verdict is being appealed.) He had been la- Some sta
mother kept beled retarded at age four and was not re- giving edu
a help for her tested for 15 years, curing which he was rather tha
'ficulties were forced to attend classes for thetarded. quire that
romised such If Edward Donohue wins his case, or five yea
her son never involving a much more common but
given psycho- harder to prove kind of negligence - that A SIMIL
rning disabili- his learning problems were overlooked by bill to the.
led English in teachers and administrators - the coun- It called f
ears, Edward try's educators may be called to account cepting tho
for malpractice just like other profes- tenure for(
Sybon, says sionals. end of that
:ed negligence In Donohue's case, even the regional di- of teachin
the issue of a rector of the New York State United could be r
Teachers Union concedes privately that The billf
teachers and administrators tend to cover Sen. FredI
husband pay for one another's incompetence. it. "It wil
a substantial concept of
the education ASKED WHY Donohue was routinely prevail ...3
ybon. "They promoted each year when he could barely bill is the w
ears they paid read, the union official contended, "The parents, w
s an implied superintendent doesn't like too many 'red lighting th
em would edu- marks on the records. If a lot of kids are
done." failing, he doesn't look good. So he'll return Nat Hent
cational mal- grade sheets to teachers if there are too Village Voice
ons of young- many failures. That's why Edward was this article I
use for action. promoted year after year.' quently on ed
f Educational His contention was confirmed *by certain "Does Anyb
in eight high teachers at Copiague High School who

remain anonymous. They claim-
an unwritten rule that no more
r cent of a teacher's grades could
acational malpractice suits are
oute being explored by education
cerned with making school pro-
more accountable. Others are
the system of professional ten-
h-somegclairp is the key reason
tors canQyage their responsibil-
[AVING PASSED a three to five
ationary period, a teacher is. al-
une from being fired. These per-
nure laws, coupled with strong
ake it so time-consuming'I4nd
ry to get an educator dismised
that many administrators have
Rothman, a Manhattan puDlic
ncipal, charges in her new bok,
Teachers, that tenure has kept
of teachers in the classroom who
be teaching. Tenure, in effect,
achers in a position of holdins on
bs for life."
ates have attacked the systen.by
cators "continuing" certificates
an "life" certificates. These-
tenure be reviewed every three
AR METHOD was produced n a
New York State Senate recer ly.
or teachers and principals - ex-
ose already tenured - to recve
only five years at a time. Atjhe
period, depending on the quaJity
ng and administration, tenure
enewed for another five yearn.
failed in the last term, but auior
Eckert promises to keep pus ng
1 take time," he says, "But he
f renewable tenure is goin to
It may not be next year, but 'phis
way most people, especially most
,ant to go. It's only a mattex of
he torches."
off is a longtime staff writer forthe
e newspaper, where a longer versiot of
first appeared. Mr. Hen toff writes re-
ducation and is the author of the recent
ody Give a Damn?"(Knopf, 1977).
MM lr*44
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