Student body president shares plans to improve Illinois experience


Hannah Auten

Portrait of Raneem Shamseldin, the Student Body President. Shamseldin hopes to make the campus more diverse and inclusive.

By Sam Schrage, Staff writer

Since Quad Day her freshman year at the University, Raneem Shamseldin knew she wanted to be involved in student government. After interning for one of two vice presidents and serving as a senator for two terms, Shamseldin was elected to serve as student body president for her senior year. Advocating for changes campus-wide regarding inclusion, diversity, sexual assault and mental health, Shamseldin said she hopes her work as student body president will impact students far beyond her term. The Daily Illini talked to Shamseldin about her campus experiences and hopes for the upcoming year.

The Daily Illini: What does your role entail as student body president?

Raneem Shamseldin: My role entails meetings with different students and really bringing the student voice to an administrative level. We often forget that we go to a school where we pay our teachers and faculty and administration so it is their job to serve us. When student voices are left unheard when creating different policies, it doesn’t lead to a satisfied time at Illinois. I attend all of the committee meetings and make sure to meet with the police chief and vice chancellor on a regular basis. I also meet with senators to write resolutions and help execute them when they pass.

DI: As student body president, what do you hope to accomplish this year?

RS: If I do one thing, I want to elevate the voice of our current students. Right now that’s working heavily on inclusion and diversity initiatives, improving our sexual assault policies and working with the Counseling Center and other groups to improve mental health on campus. I’m already working on some of these initiatives in regards to sexual assault and safety. I have plans to meet with our police chief and have been in meetings with our new vice chancellor of student affairs to make our student life and time at Illinois the best it can be.

DI: What changes would you like to see most on campus?

RS: One change I would like to see is improving our diversity. For example, as a black woman, to see a campus that is less than 5 percent black is slightly distasteful. The fact that we had less black students in our freshman class last year than we did in 1968 signals to me that there is some work to be done. Also, I would like to see changes regarding sexual assault. The fact that one in five women on college campuses are assaulted is disgusting and telling me that college campuses, including ours, aren’t doing enough to address the issue. In regards to mental health, there are one too many suicides happening on our very own campus and I’d love to help students before they reach that point.

DI: How do you plan to get input from students on changes they would like to see on campus?

RS: During my campaign, I did meet with hundreds of student organizations including many sororities and fraternities and also groups like Students Against Sexual Assault, Illini Republicans and Illini Democrats. I tried to meet with as many groups as I could to hear about their issues. After I was elected, we had a town hall (meeting) where we asked liaisons to be sent from different student organizations for more input, which ended up being our largest town hall ever. I really want to improve upon that and invite different groups and voices to future meetings. I’m always free to meet in my office in the Union and will make time for any student who wants to talk.

DI: What do you look forward to the most regarding student government and also your own studies?

RS: I’m really excited for the new year. I’m excited for a good year of football and to see what Lovie Smith and the players have been working on. I’m also really excited to work with the new student senators and also the new freshmen, because my exec board and I have been meeting with the student senators and they have some really great ideas that could make some major changes to our campus. Just seeing what happens from the beginning of my term to the end of my term and having the ability to better the school after I graduate is something I look forward to.

DI: What other clubs and activities are you involved in on campus and why did you pick these?

RS: Right now, I’m not involved in any other clubs since student government takes up a lot of my time. I do work for our football team as a videographer. In my free time, I like to travel, try out new restaurants and watch Netflix.

DI: How do you manage your time with all your engagements as student body president?

RS: Honestly, Google Calendar, but it’s really important especially in college to have your priorities straight. For a long time that was being in a sorority and serving as public relations chair, but when I found myself in an executive position with student government, I realized that I would not be able to devote enough time to my sorority and the girls that I needed to. My position as president usually takes between 35-40 hours per week.

DI: What is your favorite thing to do on campus?

RS: I love trying out new restaurants with my friends, sitting on the (Main) Quad for picnics or just to nap, going to football games and going out with my friends.

DI: What do you hope new students learn in their first year on campus?

RS: I really hope that they learn that it’s OK to go outside of your comfort zone, change your career plans or major, be friends with someone that doesn’t look like you and try different things. I would really encourage students to talk to their professors, go to office hours and try to be as involved as possible. One way to avoid feeling lonely and secluded on such a big campus is to join a lot of clubs that you’re interested in.

DI: What advice do you wish you had as an incoming freshman?

RS: Don’t give up on yourself and don’t take the first no for an answer. Also, when you’re making your class schedule it’s OK to drop a class if it seems too difficult. Don’t overstretch yourself. And remember, it’s OK to call mom and dad for help.

You can email Raneem at [email protected] or go by her office in Room 257 of the Illini Union to learn more about her position or to voice your concerns.

schrag[email protected]