Priya Narain is a Sophomore history major from Fremont, California and your new Student Body President (SBP). Narain spoke with Quest Editor Katherine Draves on her new position and her aspirations for her term.
Starting with herself, Narain spoke about the high school experiences she had that prepared her for this position, as well as her experience as a Senator.
“I was president of my speech and debate team, but other than that I wasn’t too involved with student government,” Narian said. “I wasn’t exactly very talkative in high school, so doing Senate and being President is something that’s very new to me. It’s made me do things I’m uncomfortable with, and I think that’s really helped with my confidence.”
In addition to being President, Narain also sits on multiple Senate committees: Legislation Committee, Basic Needs Initiative, Appeals Board, Trustee Board, and CLBR committee. Narain is also the Senate liaison to the Health and Counseling Center (HCC). Apart from her Senate responsibilities, Priya is involved with Desi Club and runs Period Kollective. To say the least, Narain is a busy woman. How many meetings does she have in a week? “So many! Like so many!”
Narain ran for SBP because of her love for Student Senate, stating that “it is really awesome that you’re given a platform and you’re able to connect admins with the student body.” Narain mentioned her passion for doing equity work, which she’s been doing since high school: “When you do things you’re passionate about, you’re going to be more confident about things like running for student government, especially at a school like Reed where it is so racially homogenous,” Narain said.
When discussing her position, Narain drew upon the words of Student Body Vice President Aziz Ouedraogo: “She said that the SB President and Vice President are kind of like the Senators for Senate.” Narain explained that the SBP and SBVP meet with administration to maintain relationships between Senate and administrators. As President, Narain also writes the biweekly SB Info emails to the student body. One of her hopes with SB Info is to involve more on-campus organizations, letting groups like SHARE, MRC, and Period Kollective ghostwrite, using the platform to speak about their own initiatives.
When asked about her thoughts on the role of SBP in the larger Reed Community, Narain gave an example of the sort of community outreach she wants to foster.
“So, today I got a message from Sushruta [Chandramouli ‘21]… about implementing anti-caste specific discrimination policy our bylaws,” Narain explaned. “I think that that specific policy truly extends beyond the Reed community because, as someone who is South Asian, caste is something that I think about a lot and I think that it’s important as a South Asian, as someone who is Indian, to address how caste literally impacts everything, whether it’s social status, economic status, literally everything. I think that that’s a really good form of outreach into the broader community.”
When asked about her responsibility as the student representative to the Board of Trustees and administration, Narain expressed excitement, not only about dressing up and going to dinners once COVID is no longer a concern, but also about connecting with administration and developing those relationships.
When asked about what she hopes to accomplish as SBP, Narain answered that she wants to increase student engagement with Senate, as well as foster a good relationship between senate and student organizations, cohorts, and publications.
“Me and Aziz really want to foster a good environment for all on campus organizations and clubs,” Narain said.
Furthermore, Narain highlighted the importance of fostering a positive and open environment for members of Senate.
“Me and Aziz, I’d say we have a very good relationship with all the senators, we’re all friends… If any senator has any issue, I want them to come to me and Aziz,” Narain said. “I’m a big fan of mediation and conflict resolution… If a senator doesn’t feel comfortable coming to me and Aziz, I would encourage them to go to restorative justice, honor council, or J-Board for mediation.”
Speaking about her goals as President, Narain mentioned her style of leadership and problem solving.
“I like to get projects done. I don’t like to start something and not finish it,” she said. Narain listed making CLBR more equitable, increasing access to birth control through the HCC, changing how the HCC deals with Alcohol and Other Drug violations partly through the work of a new sobriety coalition, and increasing availability of menstrual products through Period Kollective among her projects, as well as providing more support for clubs and publications run by students of color. Reed’s model of Student Governance is fairly unique among college campuses, as it is completely autonomous and independent from administration. Narain spoke to this independence, but also to the need for strong communication with administrators.
“We do our own work, we say what we want to say, we advocate for what we want to advocate for,” she said. “When we meet with admin, we like to maintain solid relationships with them, but at the end of the day these are our own projects. In order for these projects to come to fruition, we do have to work with admin. So we have to find a balance between doing what we want to do and making things work.”
When asked who Senate’s “boss” was, Narain said they “don’t report to anyone. We meet with all the admin — like we meet with literally every single admin member — every single week. I work with Karnell because he and I are on Legislation Committee together, so he’s who I’ve worked with the most. I guess I do report to him, but not really, we don’t really have a boss.”
When asked about the role of student publications and campus journalism like the Quest, Narain said she thinks “student publications are awesome,” adding that she even writes for the Grail. Narain stressed that “It’s necessary to keep Senate in check, because people don’t really know what we do and I think that the Quest has the most outreach and influence.” She continued, “I’m of the belief that Senate and student publication should have a good relationship. I don’t want there to be any animosity or contentiousness between certain publications and Senate, and I know Aziz feels the exact same way.”
Finally, Narain spoke about how students can become more involved with Senate: “Email me! I love to talk to students. I love to make friends, so come to my office hours. Me and Aziz have shared public office hours and we really want to get to know you all. If you have free time, please come to public senate meetings, I think we’re gonna make them very fun this semester.” Times and links for public Senate meetings as well as Senate office hours can be found on Senate’s Google calendar, which is linked in every SB Info.
Quotes edited for clarity.