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CSC Constitution Investigated Over Potential Discrimination

By Kevin R. Lang


The Association of Student Activities will ask the Chinese Students Club to remove a provision from their constitution which requires the president, vice president, and cultural director to be “active members of Chinese origin.”

The CSC recently amended their constitution to state that the three officers must be of Chinese origin. CSC Vice President Lilian E. Chau ’03 said that the group’s constitution formerly required a majority of the officers to be of Chinese origin, and that the amendment actually intended to reduce the restrictions placed on officers.

“I would guess that it’s been there for a while,” Chau said. “We weren’t actually aware that all these officers had to be of Chinese origin.”

CSC President Jimmy C. Chang ’02 estimated that the provision which required the entire cabinet to be of Chinese origin had been part of the group’s constitution for five or six years. He noted that the ASA approves their constitution every year as part of ASA recognition.

Chau said that the CSC executive board discovered the constitutional provision and decided to let the full membership vote on the amendment. She said the group considered removing the provision entirely but wondered what might become of the club if the officers were not Chinese.

ASA acting on MIT policy

The ASA received a student complaint after the amendment was announced. Assistant Dean for Student Activities Tracy F. Purinton then heard about the amendment through ASA President Alvar Saenz Otero G via the group’s executive mailing list.

The ASA constitution does not specifically forbid such an ethnic requirement for officers. However, under MIT’s non-discrimination policy, no such restriction can exist in any form.

“I think that’s in violation of MIT’s non-discrimination policy,” Purinton said. “I don’t think that’s in line with the educational mission of the Institute.”

Section 9.4 of MIT Policies and Procedures states that “Harassment or discrimination against individuals on the basis of race, whether subtle or blatant, is unacceptable at MIT. It will be addressed with quick and decisive action whenever it occurs.”

Purinton said she was surprised by the amendment since the CSC does not restrict membership in any way, and “in most cases, the president, vice president, and cultural director probably are of Chinese origin.”

Chau said that the club does have “a couple non-Chinese members,” while Chang noted that non-Chinese members had run for office recently.

He also clarified that “Chinese origin” did not necessarily mean Chinese ancestry, but rather some significant link to Chinese culture. Chang said it was important to the CSC that their leaders have knowledge and understanding of Chinese culture so the group does not become simply a “social club.”

Purinton said that she did not pursue the matter directly because “the ASA plays that role,” and she thought students would object if she stepped in. However, she added that “if something blows up about this, that’s when I would step in.”

Provision likely to be removed

Saenz Otero brought up the matter at last night’s regular ASA meeting, although he had not yet discussed the matter with the CSC.

“We require that all ASA-recognized groups acknowledge MIT’s discrimination policy,” Saenz Otero said. “I don't think there’s much disagreement on the issue here. The amendment would be a violation of MIT and ASA non-discrimination policy and we would make sure it was undone.”

Saenz-Otero said the ASA would meet with the CSC and ask them to remove the provision from their constitution.

If the ASA asks the group to remove the clause requiring Chinese origin, Chau said that she personally did not see a problem, but did not want to speak for the entire club.

Chang said that he thought the CSC would be averse to removing the provision completely, since the reduced requirement was reached only after three cabinet meetings. He said the CSC would be open to clarifying the policy rather than removing it outright.