Nyah at the helm
Student Union President Nyah Macklin ’16 talks big reforms for this coming year
SETTING STANDARDS: Newly-appointed Student Union President Nyah Macklin ’16 cited better communication as one of her top priorities.
Nyah Macklin ’16, former class of 2016 senator an African and African-American Studies major was officially sworn in as Student Body President in April. The Justice recently had the opportunity to sit down with Macklin as she offered up her take on issues affecting students and her overall plans for the Student Union in the new academic year.
JustFeatures: So, what inspired you to run for Student Union president?
NM: After taking a year to be in the senate, I thought that there were a lot of things that were happening within the union that can be streamlined — a lot of ways that the Union could become more effective in general and I thought that I, from listening the entire time rather than being active, understood some of the ways in which I could help the Union be more effective in representing its students in taking stances on whatever issues are apparent in our campus community. I thought that I would be a wonderful person to take on that initiative in itself. So I happily ran for the president position.
JF: What else are you involved with on campus?
NM: I did sadly have to step down from being a part of Company B, which is one of the a capella groups on campus.
I was really sad to leave them but I knew that in order to be a fantastic president I had to put all of my time and energy into that. ... I work in the office of admissions as a senior interviewer, so I am very, very involved in seeing what the next class will look like, trying to shape that. I also work in the Intercultural center part time.
JF: Correct me if I’m wrong, but you were in "For Colored Girls," right?
NM: I was! One of the most magical, fantastic productions that was put on in my time at Brandeis.
JF: What, in your opinion, is the role of Student Union president?
NM: I think I’m finding this out as I’m more involved in the position. I can tell you what it’s not. The president is not someone who gets involved in Union, says, "Oh I want to be the president of this Student Union,’ and then doesn’t understand the intricacies of being the president of the Union. Its not a popularity contest — that is something that I definitely want to stress. Because if, and this goes out to prospective representatives, prospective presidents, if they do go about it thinking, "This is going to be something to put on my resume,’ that is the worst thing they can think about, for a number of reasons, The main one being that what we’re doing is so important to the lifespan of the University, and if you undermine that, then you’re really doing your peers a huge disservice.
JF: That being said, what do you intend to do this year with your presidency and what changes do you intend to make?
NM: Communication, professionalism — that’s also something that is very, very important. Then the last one would be understanding. So when I talk about communication, I think that in the past, and even I as a senator last year, I didn’t understand as I was going into that position ... I had no idea what the Senate did or what it was. I knew that I wanted to represent my peers in some capacity, but I didn’t know, and many students come up to me and say, "Oh, you’re the president of what? What does the Student Union do?" I had many questions during the activities fair.
Knowing that students don’t know what the Union does, what we have to do is take an active stance in showing people not only what we do, or clarify what we do, perhaps. A reason that students might not have known what we did — number one, our website looked like it was from the nineties, very old. Ricky Rosen was still on the website, and he graduated about two years ago. ... I’m proud to announce that our website is ready to go live. Yeah! It is beautiful. ... we’re trying to make a — and this is an ongoing initiative — we’re trying to make a published info-graphic of the union’s budget in particular and showing students where the money goes, what clubs get how much, et cetera.
What we’re going to be doing this year is we’re going to start it off from the beginning, when we have our retreat which is actually going to happen on campus this year the weekend of the 18th. We’re not only going to have a number of administrators present, which adds another level of professionalism, but talk about the seriousness of the positions and how important the work that we’re doing really is. The senate is not just a group of people who charter and recognize clubs — they actually have a lot of power to change legislation that can be enacted in this campus, so just setting the precedent in the beginning. So that’s communication and professionalism, and that leads to understanding, I think.
We have a number of town halls scheduled with our interim president Lisa Lynch, which we’re very, very excited about for this whole communication-transparency thing playing right into that. She’s also going to have [Vice president of Campus Operations] Jim Gray and [Vice President For Students And Enrollment] Andrew Flagel there to answer students’ questions, and I think that showing up for these events is the one thing students can do to feel that their administrators are actually here for them and listening to them.
I know that Interim-President Lynch is trying to make sure that students’ understand that she is trying to be active and advocate for their needs, but if they don’t show up to these town halls, then they’re not going to happen as frequently.
Then students think that administrators don’t care about our needs. It creates this whole piece of chaos in the university.
JF: How have your experiences at Brandeis shaped your vision for your presidency?
NM: I’ve take some absolutely fantastic courses in the African and African American Studies department ... The experience I’ve gained from being that major was showing me how to be critical of the institution in itself and how to be critical of all aspects of your interactions with people from a higher power than your own. For example, being in meetings with administrators knowing that both I as a student, as the president of the Student Union, I have an agenda, but also administrators have agendas because they have things that they need to get done.
So knowing how to navigate those spaces and those conversations, I think, was a skill that I got straight from my education in the AAAS department.
JF: Flash forward to 2017, it’s the year following your presidency. Describe Brandeis in one word.
JF: What do you want to be remembered for as president?
NM: That’s a hard one because I think that the things that I’m trying to do, I think, won’t be recognized as huge things in our community. The things that I’m trying to do within the Union and within our student body, like I said, is not something like when the Student Union, in the past ... got the shuttle stop at Admissions, that was the thing they were recognized for.
That was fantastic — the things that I’m trying to do are not as blatant. I’m trying to bring our community together in ways, and that’s a slow process. It’s something that I can’t do within a year, but I can start doing, and this is why if I had the opportunity.
I would love to stay here as an administrator and really work because I see the timeline for the issues that our community is facing, and its nothing that can be started and ended within one year. ... Its not only bringing together the community along racial, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation lines, but its also making sure that when students become leaders on our campus that they know exactly what they’re doing, that they’re able to hit the ground running.
JF: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
NM: I would love to add that I would really, really love if students reached out to me if they wanted to talk about whatever it is. I am already having meetings with students, and I don’t even know about issues that they’re facing, not only within our community but within what they are passionate about.
I would encourage students, if they have things, to not just let it manifest within them, and I don’t want students to go into Brandeis and then graduate, try to go through their experience and keep saying to themselves, "I can’t wait ‘till I graduate."
I think that some of my friends last year, they had that mentality and I thought that was incredibly sad.
They didn’t see that they could create the change within our community — they saw Brandeis as hopeless, and I don’t want that to be the case.
— Compiled by Lauren Pagan.