By Gabriela Flores
After serving three years in the Undergraduate Student Government, President Iqura Naheed is set to graduate later this month from Brooklyn College. During her undergrad years, Naheed was no stranger to advocating for student needs, and she aims to carry that fighting spirit into her future as an aspiring doctor.
“I’ve really broadened my perspective on the world as well as solidified my views about what I find important in the world,” Naheed told The Vanguard while reflecting on her undergrad career. “Just generally to advocate against anything that is oppressive, or that’s not okay that I see in the world, and try to find ways to fix it.”
As a born-Brooklynite raised in Staten Island, Naheed’s start at BC as an undergraduate began in 2018 after she was accepted into the Macaulay Honors program. Pulled in by the college’s diversity, she was interested in interacting with different communities. Though she entered undecided about her major, she was always bound to pursue medicine. Once she took a few anthropology courses, where she was able to better understand human beings and the systems that shape our experiences, Naheed decided on what she wanted to study long-term – leading her to become an anthropology major on the pre-medical track with a minor in chemistry.
“Just studying a person completely holistically with everything that’s happening to them, that was really cool to me. And also, it really informed how I interact with the world,” said Naheed. “I thought it’ll be super helpful as a doctor to be able to look at a person more holistically rather than just one or two aspects of their lives.”
After learning from her anthropology courses that positions in power can bring about legitimate change, she decided to aim for a spot in USG. During her sophomore year, Naheed started as a senator serving in the Student Affairs subcommittee. The government’s former president, Ethan Milich, later asked her to join him in his cabinet when he ran for presidency. When Milich was voted in 2020, and Naheed eventually assumed her role as press director, the pandemic had recently unfolded and left many students, faculty, and staff scrambling with remote learning. Naheed, alongside her USG colleagues, advocated for a credit/no credit grading policy and worked to expand the channels of communication Brooklyn College had with its students.
“I learned a lot as press director in terms of what student government is needed for,” she said, noting that many students checked USG’s announcements and socials for college-related updates. “[…] That year, we also realized how important it is that student voices are heard during the pandemic. The credit/no credit policy was really, really vital for a lot of students and we had to do a lot of advocacy when it first came out so that it can be extended […].”
During her last two years at USG, she learned the importance of staying connected with the student body and advocating for their needs in front of administrators. Naheed also noted the importance of teamwork in making these strides possible.
“As [a] cabinet, you really have to work well as a team. As long as all parts of the team are doing the job, it works better,” Naheed said.
Taking what she observed and learned from Milich’s leadership, Naheed and her partner Aharon Grama aimed to continue the momentum of USG’s support for students. Together, they led the student government and student body into transitioning back in-person, directly communicating issues that arose among students to administrators. In her role as co-president, which meant she served as vice-president in the fall and as president this spring, Naheed wanted to make sure that Muslim student concerns were passed along to the BC administration given the history of the community being spied on by an undercover NYPD officer from 2011-2015 on campus.
“And so there’s still a lot of mistrust between Muslim students and the administration due to the legacy of that. Over the past year and year before that, we’ve [USG] done a lot of advocacy in getting Eid as a holiday, which passed last week and still is unfortunately not an official holiday on the CUNY calendar,” Naheed said, mentioning she brought the issue directly to the CUNY Chancellor. Despite USG’s efforts not succeeding CUNY-wide, she hopes that next year will mark CUNY’s recognition of Eid as a holiday in its calendar.
At BC, though, Naheed and her USG colleagues hosted the campus’ first iftar dinner during Ramadan. The historic event was part of a series of celebrations hosted by USG that uplifted BC’s cultural diversity. Within the senate, she’s happy that students have become more involved.
“Most of all, I’m really, really proud of our cabinet. Every single member of our team has truly stepped up in their positions and taken a lot of initiative, and really been very vocal and great advocates,” Naheed explained.
As she delved head-first into her work at USG, Naheed encountered her fair share of challenges. The chief hurdle among them included an initial “run-around” with administrators, which she mentioned has improved as USG can communicate with them more easily. Among her challenges, she also encountered obstacles due to her identity, which she overcame with the support of professors, including Professors Naomi Schiller and Rhea Rahman.
“Being a woman of color and especially a Muslim woman on the Brooklyn College campus, holding the position I hold, was a complicated sort of experience. It required me to be very particular of everything that I do, every event that I choose to show up to, and every position that I hold or things that I say that I feel like probably wouldn’t have been the case if I had any other identity,” Naheed said. “Which I understand, it just comes with the territory of holding this position, but that’s definitely one of the bigger obstacles throughout the year.”
Growing from her experiences in student government, Naheed has learned much about advocacy and bureaucracy. In her final stretch as president, Naheed is helping USG’s second-term president Grama and his new partner, Carrie Ebbin, in their government’s transition.
“It’s been a really eventful four years. I’m really grateful for all the experiences I was able to have despite everything that was happening in the world. I’m really grateful for all the amazing mentors, and friends I’ve met along the way, and all the lessons I’ve learned that shaped who I am right now,” Naheed said.
Naheed will not be too far away from BC since she will continue working at The Women’s Center as the program coordinator for the Muslim Women’s Research Development Project.