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Counterpoint Loses Status as MIT Group

By Tongyan Lin


The Association of Student Activities executive board voted last Thursday to derecognize Counterpoint, a joint MIT-Wellesley student publication, for not having at least 50 percent MIT membership. Counterpoint is appealing the decision.

In an official e-mail sent to Brian K. Dunagan G, the MIT Editor in Chief for Counterpoint, ASA President Kathryn M Walter ’05 said the executive board “began expressing concern in November and warned [Counterpoint] in December that there was a deadline of the first issue of term to increase the number of MIT students contributing to publication.”

Walter said the ASA counted 14 MIT students and 28 Wellesley students in the last issue for February 2004, and that was the number that lead to the decision.

An appeal of the decision could be made at the next board meeting in two weeks, Walter said. Dunagan did not return request for comment.

Counterpoint stands to lose funds

Derecognition implies the loss of the privileges provided by MIT for its student groups, such as the right to have a web page on MIT servers, the right to use the MIT name, office space, and funding, among others.

According to the 2003 Undergraduate Association Finance Board allocations archive, Counterpoint received $958 from the Undergraduate Association last term and none this term. Counterpoint does receive income from advertisements, but placed only one ad in its most recent issue.

Counterpoint to appeal decision

Dunagan e-mailed the ASA executive board Monday morning, confirming that “Counterpoint plans to appeal the board’s decision.” E-mails sent to the ASA executive board are publicly archived on the ASA web page.

Dunagan also e-mailed the ASA executive board Sunday night regarding the decision. He wrote that during the November meeting between the ASA and Counterpoint, he “showed that ... current membership was within the ASA guidelines of 50+%.”

He wrote that the ASA “made a more subtle complaint that [they] wanted 50+% authorship in every issue of Counterpoint,” and that they agreed that “since the December issue was done, and the February issue was already under way, Counterpoint should try to increase its MIT authorship presence to 50+% by its March issue.”

Dunagan also noted that Counterpoint “recruited several new MIT faces specifically as writers through our spring open house.” He wrote that he “thought [they] established a longer time frame before any more discussion or action was necessary.”

ASA concerned since Midway

Walter, however, said she did not recall such an agreement. She said that the percentage of MIT students has always “looked about the same, if not getting worse” in previous issues. She said the ASA has “been concerned and contacting them with these concerns with them since [Activities] Midway.”

The stipulation Counterpoint violates, called the 5/50 clause, states that fully recognized groups must have “at least 5 MIT students at all times and at least 50% MIT students,” according to the ASA web site.

Counterpoint met with the ASA in November to address this concern. The minutes from the meeting, available on the ASA web site, state that “Dunagan came to the meeting to defend ASA’s concern about Counterpoint’s membership composition” and the “ASA presented several ideas for getting more submissions, more membership.”

Walter said the ASA suggested that he talk to other publications that had been denied ASA recognition and ask for submissions, publicize better on campus, poster, or get ideas for finding more submissions from other journals on campus.

However, she said, “MIT is really good to its student groups, so we really try to keep it at 50 percent.” The problem, she said is that “it’s really hard to keep a student publication going, as we saw with Prometheus,” Walter said.

Counterpoint’s future uncertain

The “next step is for them to come and meet with us and present their case again,” Walter said.

Walter said that if the ASA rejects Counterpoint’s appeal, Counterpoint may appeal to the Interim Joint Appellate Board for ASA Matters.

The board is a new board that would provide “something definitive for groups to go to”, and doesn’t have “ASA bias,” according to Walter. It includes members from the UA and the Graduate Student Council, and would then “make a ruling on the Counterpoint case,” Walter said.

Several possibilities remain open if the appeal is not rejected. “It will be a board decision,” Walter said, but “one possible outcome is where we treat them like a brand new student group where we give them a year to show they can work.”

Students have mixed reactions

Adil R. Zhugralin ’04 said he thought “it’s pretty bad if there’s only going to only be one student publication” for the MIT campus. He thought that, due to programs such as cross-registration, the Wellesley community is “very much part of the MIT community” and did not think it was necessary in this case to have 50 percent MIT students.

Another student, Ajay D. Dave ’06, thought “there are enough” student news sources available. “[If] MIT is giving out money, it should do it in a manner that would benefit MIT students,” he said, and added this would be for MIT participants of the student groups.