The resources for which MIT student groups can be eligible may be subject to new restrictions introduced within key Association of Student Activities (ASA) proposed policy changes. The proposal describing those restrictions — the “openness” proposal — would implement a tiered ASA resource eligibility system based on the group’s membership policies regarding sex/gender, undergraduate/graduate student status, class year, GPA, and major.
Currently, the ASA’s resource eligibility policy requires that each student group be open to all MIT students. According to the ASA’s rationale for the policy change, the rule had been unevenly and irregularly enforced until last semester. Now, the ASA is proposing to restrict certain privileges for some student groups that restrict membership.
For instance, the policy proposes that a group restricting membership based on gender would lose eligibility for all five of the major ASA resources offered to student groups — club space, a private bulletin board, a spot at the Activities Midway, ASA funding, and inclusion in the First Year Summer Mailing list. On the other hand, a group that restricts based on GPA may only lose eligibility for three resources — space, a private bulletin board, and a place at the Midway.
Some students were initially worried that fraternities, sororities, and club sports would lose ASA recognition because of the ASA’s sex discrimination policy, but ASA president Rachel H. Keeler ’14 explained that those groups are exempt under Title IX.
“I was personally concerned that the Greeks could become non-ASA eligible,” said Nina Yang ’15, sorority Pi Beta Phi’s Vice President of Philanthropy. “Through our ASA affiliation we’re able to book tables, booths, and MIT venues for our philanthropic efforts (ie. Kresge Lawn for Arrowspike).”
Concerns were also raised regarding the tiered nature of the proposal and the varying resource restrictions depending on type of membership exclusion.
“I’m not sure how I feel about the variance in resource eligibility for groups that exclude on different criteria,” said Divya Pillai ’15, president of the Biology Undergraduate Students Association (BUSA). “I don’t understand why clubs that restrict by undergraduate/ graduate status should not be allowed to participate in the midway or participate in the first-year summer mailing. It is beneficial to have groups that specifically target undergraduate students’ needs and desires, which may differ from those of graduate students.”
Although BUSA does not restrict membership by major, Pillai says that BUSA’s purpose is primarily to serve the undergraduate population. However, because the group is department-sponsored, ASA funding is not an issue.
Following a discussion of the proposed policy change at the Fall ASA General Body Meeting last month, the ASA sent out a survey to all student groups’ officer lists for any additional comments. The survey included both open-ended questions and questions in which participants were asked to agree or disagree with a statement, with the neutral option removed.
Keeler declined to disclose the results of the survey, stating, “I’m uncomfortable giving exact breakdowns [of the survey results] because we had so few responses to the survey we aren’t sure the numbers are representative or meaningful, and people were generally pretty split.”
The ASA’s proposed policy goes into more university-specific detail than MIT’s non-discrimination policy, which states that the Institute does not discriminate against individuals based on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, disability, age, genetic information, or veteran status. The ASA’s proposed policy would add undergraduate/graduate status, class year, course, and GPA to their student group non-discrimination policy.
In addition to the openness policy, the proposed policy changes also includes a modified “5/50” rule for group membership and voting. Currently, part of the rule requires the active membership of an ASA-recognized student group to be at least 50 percent MIT students. The modification would remove that clause and instead require that at least 50 percent of the voting quorum for any decision are MIT students. The “5” part of the rule, which requires groups to maintain an active membership of at least 5 MIT students, will remain unchanged.
Keeler estimates that the finalized policies would ideally be completed within the next few weeks. The draft of the proposals, along with rationale, can be found online at http://web.mit.edu/asa/rules/pdf/openness-proposal.pdf and http://web.mit.edu/asa/rules/pdf/5-50-proposal.pdf.