The Quest sat down with the new Student Body President Safi Zenger (she/her) to discuss her role as president this semester. Safi is a sophomore art history major with a Film and Media studies minor. She is from Irvine, CA, and loves playing the sims!
What was your motivation to run for student body president?
My initial senate platform surrounded increased BIPOC support, which is not a goal that I have lost sight of, but the nature of my work on the Senate has changed over time. Thus my motivation to run for president was more than just personal projects and goals. On the one hand, I was very passionate about my ongoing projects and wasn’t ready to finish that work yet; on the other hand, I was confident I could do a lot of good for the student body. Honestly, I am really passionate about the work I do for this school. I am quite devoted to my role as president, and I’m deeply committed to making this school a nicer and better place to be, especially for the students this school is historically meant to exclude.
How is your prior senate experience informing your position as President?
I joined the Senate as a secretary during my freshmen fall, which means I’ve completed three semesters on Senate, and I’ve been on Senate for as long as I have been at Reed. Having been in the Senate for the time that I have, I knew that I would come into this role with a very strong understanding of what needs work and how to best help the new senators. [Mine and ]Margot’s … roles as execs are largely support roles. While there is a lot of work I do acting as a liaison between admin and students, the president is not generally supposed to have an onslaught of projects and is really there to help senators complete their goals. My time on the Senate means I have a very good sense of how to get things done — I know which admins have been good with supporting us and which departments are eager to interact with the Senate. Additionally, it means I hold a sizable amount of institutional memory. Being on the Senate in the Fall of 2020 meant that I was with a handful of seniors, and I inherited a lot of knowledge on things that happened prior to my arrival at Reed. In our training this semester, I shared a lot of this knowledge with our new senators, many of which are in the class of 2025. I am hoping that our knowledge of the past and what I have picked up in my experiences these past three semesters can inform us moving forward and inform future senates beyond my time at Reed.
What are some of your routine responsibilities as the president?
As president, there are a few designated committees I have to serve on, such as the commencement committee and the appeals board. Routinely, I send out SB Info, and I also regularly meet with Audrey, Karnell, Tawana, Kathy Oleson, and Tony Boston (our interim head of the Office of Institutional Diversity). Like all other members of the Senate and treasury, I hold office hours and serve on committees. A lot of my job is just answering questions and talking to admin, updating departments on campus culture, delivering student grievances to various faculty. It is very much what you would assume of a student body president.
How has the work of the prior administration affected your current goals? Are there any specific things you are working to continue? Something you want to change?
The work of the prior execs has greatly affected my current goals, especially since I worked very closely with Alo and Orion, and I actually live with Alondra. Many know this, the freshman may not though, but the Senate has just come out of an onslaught of power changes, and we haven’t had a traditional two semester presidency since 2019. In the past four semesters, we’ve had five presidents and six vice presidents, which is insane when you lay it out that way. Because Alo and Orion were only a pres-VP team for one semester, they didn’t have enough time to fully solve a lot of the issues they addressed. In this way, I am working to continue a lot of their work, especially on transparency and communication. Thus far I have made a number of small but necessary changes to the Senate, a lot of which have been behind the scenes. On a small note, I have added a handful of organizational aspects to our work environment, and on a larger scale, I added some fundamental material to our training. All members of the Senate are now race/bias trained by the Office of Institutional Diversity and expected to be Appointments Committee trained, in addition to the pre-existing precedent of attending signator training. Additionally, during my time on the Senate, there was often an uneven distribution of work amongst senators. We’d have some doing a crazy number of things and some doing a mediocre amount of work. This led to burnout from a lot of senators (myself included), and something Margot and I have been working on is implementing methods to keep this from happening.
Are there specific projects from when you were a senator that you wish to bring to the fore of your work as president?
As a senator, I worked on a number of projects, but the only one I have prioritized to continue working on as president is my academic success work with the head treasurer, Kiana. Since the Spring of 2021, we have been developing a process for students to access professor feedback written by fellow students. This means students could learn about their professors before selecting their courses and be well informed of the environments they are entering. Feedback would be organized based on what the sentiments relate to — meaning students could choose to see feedback specifically about race or feedback pertaining to gender or class, etc. Our goal is for marginalized communities on campus to be well informed of the classroom they are entering, in case they are entering a space with a professor who has a hard time respecting students’ pronouns or who has micro aggressed students of color in the past.
Could you give us some information on the work being done to reshape SB info?
Altering the look of SB Info was probably my first large-scale noticeable change within the presidency. In my time on the Senate, I always heard a lot of complaints regarding its look — it was overwhelming, hard to read, confusing, etc. As someone who is a little obsessed with organization, it was even overwhelming to put together for the first time, so I tried a new format from the start. I wanted to consolidate the email so it would at least all fit in the body of the email. I got rid of the bright distracting colors, the different fonts and put all the constant, unchanging information into documents. Additionally, I’m placing a lot less emphasis on the intro text that I’m allowed to write. While I think it could be fun to share my personal thoughts with the student body, I don’t think it’s super necessary. I will say that one of the biggest problems with SB Info was that people never read it, and this does not seem to have changed. I still get emails from a lot of students asking me about information that is highlighted, bolded, and written in the very top Highlights section. So while SB Info looks all around cleaner, I am at a loss in regards to how I can get people to read the email at all. The other large problem with SB Info is that it is still moderated following the events of Aziz’s presidency in Spring 2021. Every SB Info I send out has to be approved by Karnell before it can reach the student body, which raises many concerns regarding student autonomy, free speech, and all around independence. What is especially concerning is that this moderation was placed after Aziz made comments targeting white students, but when the Missed Connections ran a handful of antiblack and transphobic comments targeting some of Reed’s most vulnerable communities, there was no response from admin. This is one of the most important things I hope to tackle during my presidency, in regard to not only SB Info, but senate autonomy as well.
What committees do you sit on? Also, are there any additional extracurricular programs you are a part of on campus?
Members of Senate and treasury take on both liaisonships and committees. I’m the Accountability Groups Liaison, Website Liaison, Trustee Liaison, OID Liaison, Student Publications Liaison, and the Academic Support and Services Liaison. Additionally, I serve on Appeals Board, Academic Success Committee, Commencement Committee, Climate Assessment Committee, Hum 110 Committee, and technically I’m on Appointments Committee, but I don’t do a whole lot for them, I was on there for a year, so I thought I should give up my space to someone who’s never done it before. On campus, I’ve also just recently joined the Honor Council, I work as a production assistant for the dance department, and I’m one of the signators for the Black Student Union. In the past, I’ve worked as an intern for Admissions, a programming assistant for Residence Life, and an intern for the English Department.
Editor’s Note: Some answers have been edited for clarity.