Aziz Ouedraogo Assumes the Position of Student Body President

Priya Narain Resigns, AppComm Chair Alondra Loza Selected as Vice President

In the wake of Priya Narain’s resignation from her position as Student Body President (SBP), Senate has once again reshuffled their structure. Former Student Body Vice President (SBVP) Aziz Ouedraogo is now SBP, and former Appointments Committee (AppComm) Chair and Senator Alondra Loza is now SBVP. At the end of the semester, Ouedraogo will graduate, leaving Loza to fill the presidency for a semester before normal presidential elections are held again. Loza is leaving her spot as AppComm Chair, and the vacancy will be taken up by first-term Senator Safi Zenger. The Quest interviewed Ouedraogo and Loza to discuss their new positions.

In her interview with Quest Editor Katherine Draves, Ouedraogo gave some more information about the decisions that were made during the process of restructuring Senate. Ouedraogo explained that as vice president, she automatically assumed the position of president when Narain resigned, as specified in the bylaws. Loza’s appointment to the vice presidency was decided by an internal senate process. The presidential term runs from Spring through Fall semester, but because Ouedraogo is a second semester senior, she will graduate in the middle of her term. This will cause Loza to assume the presidency for Fall 2021 and will require the appointment of a new vice president.

Following the interview, Ouedraogo and Loza added an additional statement on the circumstances of Narain’s resignation: “Senate was made aware of Priya allegedly harming a Reed community member. Senate has a zero tolerance policy for harm and came to the decision to request Priya’s resignation. Priya willingly offered her resignation. Senate asks that the student body respects the privacy of the individual. We will release a statement on the matter in the coming days.”

Narain responded with an additional statement: “An external conflict between myself and a community member was brought to Senate. I resigned out of respect for the community member and Senate. I did not want this conflict to detract from the work that Senate does.”

Photo Courtesy of Aziz Ouedraogo

Photo Courtesy of Aziz Ouedraogo

In the interview, Ouedraogo explained that the deciding factor in her assumption of the presidency, as well as the decision regarding Loza’s future spot as president, was precedent. “We’ve had how many presidents this past year? I think that this makes me four. … Given that I should be gone next semester, that would put us at five in the fall.”  Amid so much turbulence, Ouedraogo said that Senate felt like some consistency was necessary so that the student body could make sense of the situation. If a new rule for deciding the presidency was made every time a new president or vice president had to be appointed after a resignation, it might signal that Senate just does whatever it wants instead of following a set procedure. Ouedraogo said, “It’s better to point to some bad rules written somewhere that we followed, as opposed to being like, we just didn’t follow them at all. So unfortunately, there will not be presidential elections at the end of the spring.” 

In an email correspondence, Loza also commented on the decision to extend her responsibilities. “To be frank, the decision for me to step up as VP was mostly based on me being the second most senior member on Senate (besides Aziz). I have experience with Senate being in ‘crisis mode’ because of the president resigning last summer too, so I think I can keep a level head and steer the ship when things go off script.”

When asked about her previous Senate experience, Ouedraogo had lots to talk about. This semester is her fourth on Senate, and she has previously been chair of Student Opportunities Subsidy Committee (SOS), chair of AppComm, and vice president. As SBVP, she also served as treasurer. Ouedraogo has seen to virtually all of Senate’s responsibilities: managing a committee as SOS chair, managing payments and hiring as AppComm chair, and managing funds as treasurer. Loza also shared her previous Senate experience. In addition to serving as a senator for a year, Loza has been on the Student Committee on Diversity, the Appeals Board, and has chaired AppComm.

Ouedraogo spoke about filling Narain’s spot as SBP without being elected. Ouedraogo acknowledged that she wasn’t elected to her role as president. She understands that some students might have concerns, “especially given that the two people who won in this past presidential election were Priya and Ariah, who have both since resigned from Senate.”

Loza also commented on the lack of an election, saying “I understand I’m not who the student body elected to be their vice president, and I don’t want to claim anything that makes it seem like it was a power grab or that anyone is happy about the situation that Senate is in. I honestly wish I wasn’t in this position because it wasn’t what I signed up for and wasn’t what I ran on, but we have to follow the bylaws in order for our projects to continue running and for us to have at least some semblance of institutional memory.”

Loza acknowledged and validated student concern around her and Ouedraogo’s elevations. “I totally understand why the student body is confused and upset and honestly I am too. Normally when you get elected to be an exec you have a whole winter break to prepare and be trained, and quite honestly, I am (and Aziz too) being thrown into the middle of a crisis.”

Photo Courtesy of Alondra Loza

Photo Courtesy of Alondra Loza

That being said, Loza was focused on what she can do in her new position. “My main focus is on transparency though, and I know we throw that word around here a lot but I really want to make it clear that anyone can come up to us and give us criticism and pointers or questions and we’ll be happy to answer them, we’re just students and we just want to fix problematic admin just as much as everyone else.”

One of Ouedraogo’s main goals as president is to solidify institutional memory.  “[As SBP], I get to bring back a lot of institutional memory… a lot of little things that are forgotten.” Ouedraogo mentioned an incremental and steady improvement in Senate’s parliamentary process during her tenure. “I think more than anything, it’s just like passing down things I have knowledge about… I am a second semester senior, and granted everything goes well, I will not be in this position in the fall,” said Ouedraogo. “What I’m hoping I can do is prepare the current VP to step into that position… especially because I feel like I was just getting comfortable as Vice President and finally feeling confident about the things I was doing. So it’s very interesting to step into this role after that.”

Speaking to her personal goals as SBVP, Loza said “I plan on continuing my focus on supporting the positions we fund through Treasury, as liaison to the SU manager last semester and reporting on all the problems of that and also seeing how Senate poorly handled the lack of transparency about wages within my first semester in this position, I’m really dedicated to setting Senate on the right track to respecting workers. Even though I’m not AppComm chair anymore, I’m still going to be spearheading this project.”

Loza noted that while continuing her previous initiatives is important to her, she now has a new role on Senate. “But obviously, no longer being [AppComm] chair, my responsibilities in general have changed. I meet weekly (or biweekly, depending) with Audrey [Bilger, Reed President], Karnell [McConnell-Black, Vice President for Student Life], and Mary James [Vice President of Institutional Diversity] now so that will be interesting.” Loza added, “that’s why I wanna plug my office hours as well as Aziz, because Audrey having monthly office hours is honestly really irresponsible and gatekeepy [sic], so if there’s any way Aziz and I can help with increasing communication with the President’s Office, I’m always free to listen and relay any info.”

Speaking to Zenger’s assumption of the Appointments Committee Chair position, Loza said that “Having Safi as the new AppComm chair is honestly something I’m really proud of and excited to see. She is an incredibly hard worker and is very dedicated to equitable hiring practices and making interviews as bias-free as possible.” Speaking promisingly for Zenger’s future, Loza said “I have no doubts that she’ll make excellent contributions to AppComm. Even though she was put into this position at the last minute, she’s received race-bias training, bias hiring practice training (like confirmation bias and how to create questions that people of all skill levels can answer), so I believe she’ll be a great fit for the position.”

In her original email statement, Narain briefly reflected on her time on Senate. “Through my committee work (Legislation Committee, Trustee Board, CLBR Committee, SOS Committee, Appeals Board, and Finance Committee), I have had the honor of working with both administration and students. I was also the liaison to HCC, and I am thoroughly excited for the Sobriety Coalition to come to fruition. Jo Skinner-Grant from Restorative Justice and Senator Anjali Reddy will be spearheading that project, and I am grateful that we were able to get that up and running.”

Narain also shared some words of encouragement for her successors. “Aziz and Alondra are going to be exceptional leaders. I have worked with them both during my time on Senate. I could not have asked for a better vice president than Aziz, and I am grateful for all the work we accomplished together…. We got a lot done this year, and I know Senate will continue making major strides.”

Quotes edited for clarity. If you or somebody you know needs assistance, we encourage you to reach out to SHARE. Services may be provided by email, phone, text, Zoom, or other messaging apps. Contact advocates@reed.edu or Rowan Frost frostr@reed.edu, 503/517-7966.

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