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CSC to Revise Constitution To Comply with MIT Policy

By Kevin R. Lang

NEWS EDITOR

The Chinese Students Club will work with the Association of Student Activities to revise their constitution so that it agrees with MIT’s non-discrimination policy.

After receiving a complaint regarding a CSC constitutional provision requiring the club’s president, vice president, and cultural director to be of “Chinese origin,” the ASA wrote to the CSC executive committee regarding a change to the constitution.

CSC President Jimmy C. Chang ’02 said that the ASA acknowledged the complaint, but did not seem overly concerned with the amendment itself. “Apparently, they just want something to be changed,” Chang said. “Honestly, we’d be more than happy to work with the ASA at this time.”

Chang said that the CSC had an executive committee meeting on Sunday to discuss the matter. “We were kind of shocked,” he said.

CSC leaders hope that their constitution can simply be clarified to comply with MIT policy. “We’re not here to discriminate,” Chang said. “We’re here to spread our culture.”

Other clubs have similar policies

The CSC is not the only ASA-recognized student group with a cultural requirement in its constitution. Club Argentino’s constitution states that “Only Argentine MIT students shall be eligible to serve as president, treasurer and secretary of the Club Argentino.” The MIT Malaysian Students Association requires the president to be a citizen or permanent resident of Malaysia. Both of these groups have ASA-approved constitutions, and Club Argentino specifically acknowledges adherence to MIT's non-discrimination policy.

Other clubs do not specifically refer to officers as the CSC does, but rather make distinctions between different groups of members. The Portuguese Students Association requires “active members” to be of Portuguese origin. However, the club also has “associate members” who are not eligible for active membership or voting rights, but are recommended for associate membership by active members. Similarly, the Republic of China Student Association requires active members to be of Taiwanese origin, and associate members are not be eligible to run for office or vote on electing officers.

ASA President Alvar Saenz Otero G said that many student group constitutions were drafted before MIT’s current non-discrimination policy existed, and the active versus associate member clause was a formerly a common constitutional provision.

Currently, the ASA does not attempt to establish its own non-discrimination rules, but rather defers to MIT.

“It has to be full adherence to the MIT non-discrimination policy,” Saenz Otero said. “Anybody who is a member must have the same rights.”

ASA doesn’t review constitutions

However, Saenz Otero said that the ASA does not actively search through constitutions looking for violations. “Unless we get complaints about them, we don’t act on them,” Saenz Otero said. “At the point where there is a problem, we will deal with it.”

The ASA requests a copy of each group’s constitution annually, so that a current edition is on file in case of a problem. However, the ASA currently recognizes more than 300 student groups, and Saenz Otero said that reviewing each group’s constitution annually would simply be too time consuming.

CSC hopes to adapt constitution

Chang said that he hopes to find a solution with the ASA such that CSC interests are maintained without violating MIT’s non-discrimination policy. “We’re just seeking more of a clarification right now,” Chang said. “We want to maintain the cultural aspect.”

Chang said that the CSC defines “Chinese origin” as not necessarily an ethnic requirement, but as a connection to Chinese culture. “We saw origin something more like background,” Chang said. He thought the CSC might be able to resolve the situation by clarifying the term “origin” in the constitution itself.

Amendment reduces restrictions

According to Chang, non-Chinese members of the CSC also voted to support the amendment, which reduced the origin requirement from all officers to only three. “They did think it was funny that it blew up to this situation,” Chang said.

He said that the club wanted to change the provision “piece by “piece,” in order to preserve the club’s focus. However, former CSC executive committee members were “alarmed” that the officer requirements had been reduced at all.

“We’re trying to do something good, and it comes back and shoots us in the foot,” Chang said.