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GSC reviews activity policy

and Harold A. Stern

The Graduate Student Council (GSC) will vote Thursday night on an amendment to the bylaws regulating GSC recognition of student activities. If approved, the proposal would refuse recognition to those organizations that have discriminatory membership policies.

Interested council members met two weeks ago to discuss the text of the proposal that would be presented. "Membership must be open to all members of the MIT community," the approved version of the amendment reads, "although voting membership may be limited in order to preserve the identity of the group."

Activites must receive recognition either from the GSC or the Association of Student Activites (ASA), the organization with jurisdiction to recognize organizations with undergraduate members, in order to receive space in the Student Center or receive funding from the groups.

Thirteen GSC-recognized organizations limit membership to members of a particular nationality, Nell said. They are all ethnic organizations -- none are racially based, she added.

The groups, she continued, include: Tech Community Women, Club Latino, the Korean Graduate Student Association, the Pakistani Student Association, the African Student Association, the Japanese Student Association, the Friendship Association of Chinese Scholars and the Brazilian Students Association.

Julio Escobar G of Club Latino, Farzan A. Riza '87 of the Pakistani organization and Moctar A. Fall G of the African Students group, however, denied that their organization denies membership to anyone. Leaders of all other activities could not be reached for comment.

The GSC never had a formal policy concerning recognition and funding in the past, Nell said. "No written policy was applied," she explained, because "our previous budget was so small in previous years" that few groups applied for GSC funds.

One topic of debate concerned whether the GSC should recognize organizations that have discriminatory voting policies. The original text of the amendment, modeled on the ASA policy, would apparently not allow groups to limit voting for reasons other than attendance, paying of dues or related issues.

The GSC members present voted against this, on the grounds that it might be necessary for an activity to protect itself from takeover by outsiders.

The MIT Black Students' Union (BSU), for example, distinguishes between regular members (black students of African descent), associate members (black non-students of the MIT community), and special members (members of the MIT community not of African descent). Associate and special members have no voting privileges. "In the past, there have been incidents in which non-black students tried to take over the organization for their own purposes," said John Tate of the BSU.

ASA recognition policies

The ASA already has a policy concerning recognition of activities. As with the GSC, one of the regulations groups must comply with that "membership may not be based upon race, sex, religion, nationality or sexual preference," according to the "Short Guide to Writing a Constitution" in How to Become an ASA-Recognized Activity.

"However, voting membership may be limited where germane," the guide reads. Examples of what is considered "germane" include "dues paid, three or more meetings, pledged, etc." The ASA, however, grants recognition to groups that deny membership on the basis of race, nationality or religious beliefs.

The ASA has no plans for changing its policy regarding voting membership. According to Steve Burke, senior office assistant in the student affairs office, "ASA's main objective is to protect the core of the student activities."

Some ASA-recognized organizations restrict membership of any type. The Christian Science Organization of MIT grants membership only to members of the "Mother Church" or those who "are not members of the Mother Church but who are free from other religious connections," states its constitution.

Brian Cromwell G, president of the Christian Scientists, was unaware that the constitution was contrary to ASA policy. "The issue has never come up in the past," he said. The organization plans to discuss changes to their constitution at their next meeting. "We want to be sure we are in compliance with ASA regulations," he said.

It is difficult to enforce rules on groups that have been in existence longer than the ASA, Burke claims. In some cases if the "group is acting in good faith" but does not comply with all ASA regulations no action will be taken, he continued. "If students have a complaint or problem, they will see us about it," Burke explained.