As the Undergraduate Student Government presidential elections draw near, candidates Aharon Grama and Iqura Naheed placed their bid with a split ticket. If elected, USG’s current Chief of Staff and Press Director would share the presidency, with Grama leading the executive branch in the fall and Naheed in the spring.
“That means that with the decisions that we make, we’re going to try to do together,” Grama told the Vanguard, claiming that he and his running mate Naheed intend to act as co-presidents. “We’re both going to make decisions together, and we’re going to move BC together as much as we can.”
Initially, the two did not intend to run for the presidency when they first joined USG. However, their experience and skills garnered in the last year online have led them to consider otherwise. Together, Grama and Naheed worked long hours and connected with students virtually. With their time implementing policies like the credit/no credit, and stopping BC’s use of the testing program ProctorTrack, the duo has addressed a number of students problems that have arisen during the pandemic.
“We thought if we both ran together, we can help keep the momentum going of what we were able to do this past year,” Naheed told the Vanguard, sharing how their partnership intends to build from current President Ethan Milich’s agenda, all while adapting to the issues that may arise during their potential term.
Grama, who joined Milich’s cabinet when it was elected last year at the pandemic’s peak, relied on his computer science knowledge to establish USG’s outreach to students. By developing Discord chats, USG’s website, and other socials, Grama was able to provide students a digital space to connect as a community – something that he found necessary before the move to online.
“I would say the vision is for students to actually be more involved with their whole entire experience in college,” Grama said, mentioning that he intends to remove the Deputy Press Director position in his cabinet and form a new position that would be technology-centered.
This new role would be designated for someone who can manage the USG website and directory, while ensuring all student members of a committee are present to vocalize their concerns, amongst other responsibilities. Grama and Naheed intend to use their connections and knowledge collected under Milich’s administration during their time in the executive branch once elected.
“I’ll say it’s extremely important to have experience on the job,” said Grama. “It’s going to be extremely positive to students to have someone who knows who are the players, at the moment, inside the faculty, inside the administration.”
Grama’s arrival to BC came about after leaving his ultra-orthodox Jewish upbringing, joining the Israel Defense Forces as a First Sergeant, and finding his fascination with technology. Once he came back to Brooklyn from Israel, Grama decided to take a TASC, or a high school equivalency test, to enroll in college. After hearing about BC Bound, a program offered by the Learning Center that guides students with limited to no high school experience into their first college semester, Grama enrolled in Brooklyn College and became increasingly involved with student activities. If elected, Grama hopes his presidency would be a reminder to students that anything is possible.
“I’m hoping this would give hope to people all around who don’t necessarily have a high school diploma but still want to join college,” said Grama. “I want everybody to have the opportunity. Not only is it possible, it’s very doable.”
Naheed, with her background in cultural and medical anthropology, has recognized the importance of helping students through their different struggles. If she were voted into the executive branch, she said she looks forward to her and Grama’s plans for connecting further with BC students. Though she may not be facing the issues they are dealing with, Naheed finds that it is important to stand up for what is right in order to create “real change.”
“And I’m a Muslim-American woman in New York City, so I have my own experiences of how the system works and what’s helpful, what’s not helpful,” said Naheed. “I always think it’s important to stand up, and not just for what affects you, but anything that’s hurting someone.”
With voting less than one week away, both Grama and Naheed are concerned about the student turnout for the election. Given the limitation of campaigning online, both are unsure what their and their cabinet’s efforts may amount to in the election results. Nonetheless, they are confident that once elected into the presidency, they will adapt and address all student needs that are brought to their branch.
“Our main goal will be to focus on students,” said Naheed. “Focus on getting in touch with students, getting to know what students want physically, and pushing that. Trying to jump over any leaps and hurdles of bureaucracy to get what students need done.”