ASA Will Propose to Lower Threshold for Group Recognition

Groups of students who want access to certain resources controlled by the Association of Student Activities would have an easier time getting them, under a proposal being presented by the ASA’s executive board to all student groups at a Monday general body meeting.

Under the new proposal, not all student groups would be created equal: the ASA would declare some groups eligible for funding and office space, while others would only be able to access less-scarce resources like classroom reservations, booths at the spring and fall activities fairs, and publicity through a CD sent to all incoming students. “MIT student groups” would be different from “MIT-funded student groups.”

The proposal “lowers the threshold for ASA recognition,” said ASA Treasurer Shan Wu G.

It would substantially simplify a system which currently recognizes four different kinds of groups — fully recognized groups, departmentally sponsored groups, Club Sports Council-recognized groups, FSILGs and dormitories. The ASA has also used the idea of “provisionally recognized” groups, which do not get access to some resources like the Undergraduate Association or Graduate Student Council’s respective funding boards.

Lowering the bar

Currently, groups must be judged significantly unique and sustainable by the ASA’s executive board, a group of about ten students elected yearly from among all student group members. Groups like Students for Obama were denied recognition under the current system, because they had little sustainability — there seemed to be little purpose to their existing past 2008, Wu said.

The new proposal eliminates the sustainability requirement. “It’s OK for a group to be active for a year and then die off,” said ASA president Keone D. Hon ’11.

The proposal also sets two different standards for uniqueness. To be recognized as an “MIT student group,” prospective groups need only be deemed “distinct” from other groups, Wu said. But to be recognized as a MIT-funded student group they need to be “significantly unique” and add “significant value,” she said. The ASA’s uniqueness rules have traditionally been designed to make an efficient allocation of scarce resources like funding.

“We weren’t being flexible [before],” Hon said. “All the groups that apply are really good … they promote student life,” said Hon. “And there’s no cost to recognizing them.”

Under the new proposed rules, groups will still need to have at least five members, at least half of whom — including the president and treasurer — must be from MIT; and the groups must still follow MIT’s non-discrimination clause in admitting members.

The ASA’s normal regulatory cycle of checking whether a group is active would keep the list of ASA recognized groups from ballooning with many transient groups, Hon said. Thus, while “more groups may be formed,” said Hon, they “could be purged more quickly” as they become inactive.

In recent years, the ASA has required all student groups to submit a yearly “anti-hazing form” saying that have told their members about a state law preventing hazing. The list of groups who don’t turn in this annual form might provide a good list of candidates for derecognition, although groups have not been derecognized en masse in several years. (Just over a hundred groups, listed at, have not turned in the form this year.)

Current groups will be “grandfathered in” as MIT-funded groups, said Wu. In the past, some groups were recognized as “provisional groups,” giving them limited access to funding and meaning that the ASA intended to review their status in the next year. Many groups which had been “provisionally” recognized, some for several years, could now be potentially be recognized as at least an “MIT student group.”

All ASA-recognized groups, MIT-funded or not, would be able to reserve classrooms, request space at the spring and fall student group fairs, appear in the ASA’s mailing to first-year students, be allocated an Athena locker, and ask for money from the ASA-controlled Large Event Fund and the fund Assisting Recurring Cultural and Diversity Events.

MIT-funded groups would be able to ask for money from either the Undergraduate Association’s funding board or the Graduate Student Council’s funding board, and they would also be able to request office space, make room reservations controlled the Campus Activities Complex, and vote at general body meetings.

If it turns out that MIT funded groups face resource competition from other groups for classroom reservations or activities fair space, “we can prioritize if we need to,” Hon said.

Of the 28 group applications the ASA received in its last applications cycle in September, only 11 were recognized, said Wu. Nine more were provisionally recognized, three tabled for further consideration, four denied recognition, and one request was withdrawn. Most of the 16 groups not fully recognized would qualify as some kind of student group under the proposed revisions, Wu said.

To be implemented, the proposal needs a two-thirds vote of the ASA executive board. The executive board will also seek approval from the general body for changes to the ASA’s operating guidelines to reflect the existence of two kinds of recognized groups, said Wu.

The Association of Student Activities governs all student groups, with each group currently getting one vote at general body meetings, traditionally held twice a year. An executive board of about ten students governs in the absence of the entire general body.

If approved, the new system would come into effect for the current membership application cycle, for which applications were due last Friday. The ASA considers applications for recognition about once every two months.