FEB. 9, 2018 4 min read

Last December, Nikhita Airi and Natasha Baas-Thomas were elected as Student Body President and Vice President.

President Nikhita has had a long career in student government. During her first year at Reed, she started working as a secretary for Senate meetings and with the Student Committee on Academic Policy and Planning. In her sophomore year she was elected for Senate. She has also worked in the Multicultural Resource Center and with the peer mentor program.

Nikhita thinks most people recognize her as “that person on Senate,” a moniker she apprives of. She sees her involvement in Senate as the most rewarding experience of her time at Reed, saying, “I feel like if I hadn’t been involved in Senate, I would have transferred.”

What she loves about Senate is working with students who are committed to student body autonomy, who want to make an impact on campus, and who care about other students.

“There is something so special about students being students with one another. ‘Reedies take care of Reedies’…  I see it and I would love to see more of it. It’s not just about partying,” she said.

Nikhita recognizes a small group of students as the main contributors to campus life, and she loves being a facilitator for that. Since her first Senate meetings, supporting and advocating for students has “felt important in a way that was exciting.”

Natasha’s career in student government has been similarly impressive: she began working in student government as a treasurer in high school and, to continue the trend, Natasha was then elected Head Treasurer during her sophomore year at Reed.

“Treasury meetings tend to be grueling but always fun,” said Natasha, for whom the stressful and rewarding work of a treasurer felt like a good fit.

As the vice president, she is excited to spend less time maintaining financial records and more time focusing on “big picture” issues, like guaranteeing funding for marginalized students.

“It really sucks when we are forced to choose between Beer Garden and Low SES,” said Natasha, who strongly believes Reed should provide the necessities for students to focus on their studies. In this way, student body funds could be left fully available to finance the enrichment of non-academic student life.

When asked about their new jobs, both Nikhita and Natasha feel excitement and just a tinge of trepidation. Natasha is nervous about entering the exclusive spaces and meetings that are held with administrators, trustees, and Kroger, while Nikhita is overwhelmed by the prospect of having her voice broadcasted into every student’s life through SB emails.

However, they are both in agreement about their biggest goal and challenge this semester: modifying Reed’s dissent policy. The dissent policy outlines the “boundaries” for protest and indicates the consequences for trespassing them. It garnered a lot of attention after last semester’s events, with many students calling for its revision.

“Amending the dissent policy, or at least revising it in some significant way, is something that I really want to see happen” says Nikhita. “It’s concerning to me that the dissent policy was last revised in the late 60s. The codification of honor within the dissent policy is not how it’s supposed to work. I am not satisfied that it addresses basic concerns for the twenty-first century. ”

Natasha agrees, saying, “there are huge problems with the dissent policy.” While reading Senate meeting minutes from the 1960s, Natasha discovered the dissent policy was passed as a response to the occupation of Eliot Hall led by the Black Student Union. “Immediately after passing the policy, someone made a motion to have a J-Board case against the protestors. So, when passing the dissent policy, prosecuting students was clearly on their mind.”

If you want to learn more about the history of the dissent policy (and you should!), drop by to chat during Nikhita and Natasha’s office hours, held on Mondays from 4–5 p.m., and, if you would like to have a voice in student body politics, check out public Senate meetings on Fridays at 4:10 p.m. in the Student Union.