Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson votes sophomore Nandan Nair as next Executive President of SGA

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Kellyn Taylor

Next year’s Internal Affairs board will see Nandan Nair as executive president, Kayla Armbruster as executive vice president, and Oliver Katz as executive treasurer. 

Armbruster and Katz ran unopposed, while Nair ran against Owen Buxton for the position.

Ahead of the Student Government Association election results announcement, Nair sat down with the Beacon to discuss his new role in SGA, his campaign, and what he wants the Emerson student body to know as he assumes his new position. 

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Beacon: What inspired you to run? Was there anything about your current role that inspired you to run for executive president?

Nair: I have had my eyes on this position for a while now, to be honest. I actually ran for president last year, because, as a freshman, I was the assistant to the president, and that taught me a lot about how the role works, what [SGA presidents] do, how they should be like, and how SGA should function. The person who was president, I was very close to him and seeing all of the work that he did, his commitment to the community, all of that inspired me. 

I have always wanted to make other people feel represented, and especially as a filmmaker, a lot of what I try to do is use my film to give a voice to people who do not have one, so I see SGA as a way of doing that. I thought that serving as the executive president was probably the utmost way that I could do that, so I can get my voice across. So I ran last year, and I also put myself down for [executive] treasurer, and I ran unopposed for treasurer, so I won that, and I very narrowly lost the presidency vote. I have been doing treasury work this year, seeing a lot of how SGA collaborates with the administration and how we speak for other people. I think being [an] executive assistant is one thing, but then actually being on the executive board is completely different. I have gained a lot of experience this year. I gained a lot of understanding about how Emerson’s SGA works financially, and understanding how our money circulates is important to understand how we can enact policy and help students. 

Beacon: How do you anticipate your new role being different from your previous one? 

Nair: The president and the treasurer are both on the E-Board, but they [have] fundamentally different roles. The treasurer is a very nailed-down position. You know exactly what you have to do: you have to manage appeals, manage the ABR process, to look at requests. The presidency role is one where it is what you make it in that the president is overseeing SGA as a whole and trying to steer SGA in the direction that you think it should be going. With treasury, I can only do so much that will help the students. I set up the allocation give-back fund. I am trying to be more equitable in how we do cuts, so I can do that, but with treasury, I can only go so far. 

The president [serves] to overlook [SGA] as a whole, and so seeing how the treasury works has influenced how I look at SGA and how we govern. I would carry that over into the presidency in the sense that there are all the same goals: equity, accountability, and action.

Beacon: What are some short-term and long-term changes you want to implement in your position? 

Nair: I really want to try and increase our presence in the community. I want to do a lot more community engagement and make sure the people feel heard, and I also want to leverage my position with the student impact fund to do things for the students.Overall, activism and making sure people are heard. I want to make sure that we prevent stuff like [the arrests that happened] from ever happening again because no student should ever feel unsafe or feel like they can’t express their opinions at an institution like Emerson. 

Another thing I have talked about is the creation of more third spaces on campus or the beautification of the ones we already have. Besides the Colonial common rooms, which are pretty nice, there are no third spaces at Emerson where students can hang out. I also want to do more stuff to make organizations feel more represented and make the organizational [financial] process a bit smoother. I have noticed that in transitioning from one year to another, organizations sometimes struggle with how they handle that process, so I want to help out with that. 

In terms of long-term goals, I have talked about tuition hikes, pricing students out, and representation.  I also know the president has an AI interest group, but I really want to see how I can help or how SGA can help be a voice in the conversation of how Emerson views AI. Something I have proposed is a mandatory class on AI that everyone has to take and also having panels where students from every department can come together and talk about how they think AI is going to influence their specific field. 

Beacon: You ran on a joint ballot with Kayla Armbruster for executive vice president and Oliver Katz for executive treasurer. How did you all come to that decision? 

Nair: In terms of [Oliver], it was pretty straightforward. Ollie has been my vice treasurer this year and has helped me out a lot in the treasury department. He handles a lot of the logistical perspective and the minor things so that I can focus more on the larger picture. Especially with the appeals process, he has been super helpful in communicating with organizations, so that takes some time off of my hands. They have a good, logical perspective [on] things and they see things very to the point. I think a lot of times, I try and be like, “We can do this and this,” but Ollie is usually there to ground me. Because of that, and the fact that they have a year’s worth of experience, I fully endorse them. 

As far as Kayla goes, that was also a straightforward decision to me. She has been our political communications senator this year, and I have seen at General Assembly that she has a very good sense of how SGA works. She’s very critical in the questions that she asks, especially in the discussions we have had on certain issues like the arrests. In my talks with her, she has really good goals for [the] vice presidency, and she has a lot of ideas for the Student Experience Senate, which is what the vice president runs. 

Beacon: How did the campaign process help you learn more about the Emerson student body and how you’ll run future campaigns? About the election process?

Nair: The main thing I have learned is that as diverse as we say our student body is, there are a lot of things that we are united on. No matter where you go in the community, you will find certain beliefs and ideals everyone wants. And that is super important because, at the end of the day, if you are in student government or any kind of government, you are serving the students and the people that elect you. That influenced my campaign a lot. I know that people value certain things like more financial aid, [and they] want people who are experienced, and I campaigned on that front [to show] that I know how to get the job done. 

Beacon: It’s interesting that you mention the Emerson student body being united on some issues. Is there anything besides financial aid that sticks out to you?

Nair: Yes, of course. Among other things overall, [there is a] feeling of wanting more representation and access to resources. It seems like a general belief, and I might be biased as a [visual media arts] major, but I have noticed that people across that major have issues with the [Equipment Distribution Center]. And the same thing with theatre majors, like around renting spaces and the fact that we have so many theatre organizations and so many theatre students and there are only so many places you can rent out. There are a lot of communication issues with the school and how it is run currently; I think that is where SGA can come in if we do our part well. There’s a lot of information about these things that people do not know, and as president, I want to encourage a lot more open communication, [and] a lot more use of our social media. I think it is super important that we hear those concerns and come up with a plan that listens to student input in a way that effectively gets the job done. 

Beacon: As for the actual election process, do you have any insights into how many Emerson students actually vote?

Nair: I cannot speak for this year yet, but I can say that historically, turnouts are fairly low. Last year, we only had something in the range of 250-300 people [who] voted overall. This was also part of my campaign in which I was trying to go to groups that do not usually vote or care about student government. Even if they do not care about student government, they have their own concerns, and just because they do not care about student government does not mean they do not have things they want to see change. And so, a lot of my campaign was trying to go to those groups of people, who I knew, historically, do not really vote much. And [I] talk[ed] to them to see what are things that they want [to be] changed and I tried to encourage them to campaign, “with your vote, I can speak for you guys as well.” I think there is a lot of communication disconnect in our school in many senses, and I think many majors or groups of people do not interact with each other as much as they should, creating a hierarchy. And so, a lot of what I have been trying to do is appeal to unite people, and that is what we are trying to do at the end of the day. 

Beacon: What would you say, in your experience so far, has caused that disconnect where you see such low voter turnout? Compared to schools like the University of Alabama, where SGA is one of the most coveted positions you can hold, why do you think that’s different here? And do you think it speaks to the culture at Emerson? 

Nair: I think it comes down to a lot of things; as you said, the culture at the school is a big factor. Because not a lot of us are super into politics and government, a lot of it is advocacy-based, and for that reason, a lot of people, off-the-bat are not too interested in student government work. I think many people may also feel so underrepresented because of certain issues at the college that they feel like, “Oh what is my vote going to do.” And we see this a lot nationally, too, is that, “Well I am just one person. If I do not vote, who cares?” I think it also, and this is no disrespect to anyone [who] came before me, but I think it may also reflect the history of SGA. Maybe people have not been satisfied with what SGA has done in the past, and that has carried over such that people are not interested and do not think [voting] is going to do anything. That’s part of why I [ran] for president because I want people to see that SGA can accomplish things, and with student input, we can speak for the student body. 

Beacon: Is there any message that you would want the student body to know as you assume the presidency? 

Nair: I would say my first message would be, obviously, thank you to everyone that voted for me, but my more important message would be: Regardless of whether you voted for me or not, I appreciate the fact that people showed up and voted. Regardless of whether you agree with me or not, I am going to make your voices heard. From day one until the end of the year, I am going to work to make sure that everything I do is for the student body. I want to make sure that everything I do, at least a part of every part of the community, feels impacted by it and that people see a difference through what I do. Regardless of whether people voted for me or not, whether they care about student government or not, regardless of what it is, I am going to work to make sure that I fight for their voice and to make a change that lasts now and goes beyond me.

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About the Contributor
Katherine Cressman
Katherine Cressman, News Co-Editor
Katherine is a freshman journalism major from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. When she is not writing you can find her singing in Achoired Taste, playing tennis, or watching cat videos on TikTok.

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