Charges Misrepresent the Nature of AAA
TO THE EDITORS OF THE CRIMSON:
I am writing in response to your March 16th article titled "New Asian Group to Evaluate AAA Views." Many of the statements within this article and past articles have contained misleading or erroneous information concerning the nature of the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Association (AAA), and I feel these statements need to be clarified.
First, I would like to respond to the comments made by the four students comprising the Harvard-Radcliffe Asians for Fair Representation (HRAFR). The article states that, "HRAFR proposed AAA needs the approval from...two-thirds of all members, roughly 200 students, before they take a stance on any political issue. "The number, in fact, needed to meet the two-thirds quorum proposed by HRAFR is actually 400 (the general membership of AAA is over 600). While this would an theory be a wonderful idea, I think most students at Harvard realize that making it mandatory for 400 students to come out and unanimously approve each policy that AAA decides to pursue would paralyze the organization from acting on my issue. Furthermore, Daniel H. Choi '94 is quoted as saying, "...most of the officers [of AAA] were elected by less than 40 Asians each, which probably come out to less than five percent of Asians at Harvard." In fact, if he or any of the three other members of HRAFR had been at elections, they would have known that over 150 students came out to vote, which represents the most active membership of AAA. HRAFR should also be careful about quoting percentages, for as the group stands now HRAFR represents less than one-half of a percent of Asian American students at Harvard. Finally, HRAFR claims that AAA does not go through due process; that is, "debate, discussion, and deliberation." This is patently false. Again, if members of HRAFR had attended elections, they would have know that each candidate runs on a particular platform, which is then subject to thorough questioning by the AAA membership. Thus, after much due process, the AAA officials are elected, and go on to represent AAA membership to the best of their ability Moreover, AAA holds a general meeting once a month in order to keep the membership apprised of AAA events and field comments and criticisms on AAA policies and actions (ironically, the only reason HRAFR even received a voice was because they were allotted time at one of these meetings to present their viewpoint). In addition, AAA prints up a newsletter once a month and sends e-mail on a regular basis to keep its membership informed about upcoming events. And as has happened on many occasions, those members who have objections to AAA stances can call the leadership directly (the phone numbers of all 14 officers are printed on every newsletter).
In sum, AAA is not some monolithic umbrella institution run by an oligarchic cabal, which unilaterally decide all its policies. Rather, AAA is a single organization of 600 students, separate from all the other Asian ethnic groups, who in the interest of expediency entrust a diverse body of 14 students to carry out the 20 or so events AAA holds every year. And in many cases, like the protest during Junior Parents' Weekend, AAA must act quickly and boldly in order to insure that the voices of Asian American students are heard. This is one of the main purposes of having an elected board of officers. Interestingly enough, partly because of the quick actions of AAA, Daniel Choi was placed on one of the student panels during Junior Parents' Weekend. It would hardly have been feasible for AAA to ask 400 students from its membership to meet on a day's notice and all vote unanimously for AAA to go ahead with its demands.
And for those who claim that AAA is too political an organization, I would like to remind them that AAA was founded in the late '70s in response to administration policies that were biased against Asian American students. One issue in particular was the admittance of Asian American students at Harvard (the class of 1973 had less than 25 Asian students and the class of 1980 had less than 60 Asian students). Through protest and activism, as well as changing demographics, policies within the administration changed and the composition of the class of 1993, which now stands at over 300 Asian students, stands as proof that political activism is vital in meeting the needs of Asian American students at Harvard. None of this would have happened without the care and concern of students.
So, I urge any and all who are interested in AAA to first and foremost get involved. Come to steering committee meetings, come to general meetings, come to forums, call your officers. The elected officials of AAA are students just like yourselves and more than welcome any feedback that you can give them. And, as always, if you feel that the AAA officers have done an unsatisfactory job after a year, come to elections and either run for office or at least vote for candidates that you feel are better suited for the job. AAA is a democracy and as such, requires the participation of all interested students in order to work. Mark H. Kim '94 Former President, AAA