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Senior Spotlight: Hunter Brown just tries to have a decent time

Photo courtesy Hunter Brown

By Riya Misra     9/6/22 10:44pm

Hunter Brown lives for three things: pad thai, melodica and a “good fucking time.”

“Have you ever seen a piano that you blow into? That’s the melodica,” Brown, a McMurtry College senior, said. “It truly is the Swiss Army knife of musical instruments. And I’m going to say, it’s my favorite pastime. I can spend an hour just blowing into that.”

When he’s not dreaming about the melodica or working as the president of McMurtry, Brown said he majors in political science and social policy analysis. A speech and debate kid since middle school, Brown said practicing debate placed him on a trajectory towards his majors.

“I’m studying political science and social policy analysis because I wanted to make a difference,” Brown said. “And also, largely because of my speech and debate background, it was the only thing that I felt like was on that track that we all get put on.”

A self-professed argumentative child, Brown said he quickly grew to appreciate the confidence that accompanies speech and debate. 

“Captivating people was just awesome,” Brown said. “So I spent a lot of my time in high school trying to get better at debate and trying to find synonyms for ‘therefore’ and the right ways to make people listen to you.” 

It wasn’t until later that Brown said he realized the toxicity of the debate world, where he said people were often objectified and belittled. The insincerity he experienced made him shrink away from the debate world after a few years, Brown said.

“There were a lot of times when I felt like people saw me as an object,” Brown said. “People would politic and network and it always felt like [their] compliments were insincere. I felt like a lot of the people I was around were sociopaths and it just felt so inhuman and unnatural.”

Brown said his background in debate has provided him insight into how not to operate within leadership roles. Many of the people he engaged with during his time in debate, according to Brown, were templates for the kind of person — and ultimately, president—that he wanted to avoid becoming.

“Debate has given me a lot of exposure to what not to do as president,” Brown said. “I feel like one thing I’ve recognized is that we force ourselves to be so formal ... and I don’t think that’s how you reach people. I think you just have to be genuine. Recognize that you don’t need to pretend to be somebody that you’re not, you don’t need to see other people as objects. You just have to be clear with your motivations and your intentions.”

Outside of his time at Rice, Brown says he lives off-campus this year, where his responsibilities as president don’t necessarily transfer over.

“I operate like a savage, like some kind of caveman. I [have] nothing in the fridge currently belonging to me,” Brown said. “In the pantry, there is a jar. Not even of peanut butter — of peanut butter powder. There are three boxes of cereal in that pantry. And that’s what gets me through the day ... I don’t fuck with milk, personally.”

Indeed, as his penchant for dry Special K Protein cereal may suggest, Brown says he appreciates simplicity in his life and hobbies.

“We make life so complex. I don’t think it needs to be that complex,” Brown said. “I think really at the end of the day, we’re all just trying to have a decent time.”

And a decent time, he has. Despite his presidency, Brown says he is willing to hand off much of his job’s credit to the coworkers and peers who surround him.

“A lot of really talented people make [stuff] happen,” Brown said. “I highlight those people and give them advice. But a lot of times, I feel like more of an advisor or a counselor rather than the guy that’s doing things. There are really good, empathetic people who exist. I feel like my job is to empower those people.”

Keeping in line with his sentiments as college president, Brown said he wants to use his degree after graduation to continue empowering people.

“People who don’t have those support circles, people who can’t afford to pay rent, people where college was never even an idea ... that kind of massive disadvantage exists,” Brown said. “So I think, more than anything else, I just want to find a way to help equalize that playing field. I want other people to have the chance to fuck up, because I have had a lot of opportunities.”

Nearing the end of his time in college, Brown said he reflects on his time at Rice and offers up advice to both his peers and the larger Rice community as a whole.

“What I’ve learned, especially at Rice, is that nobody gives a shit,” Brown said. “So don’t be afraid to look stupid. Just have a good time. Pad thai, melodica and a good fucking time. That’s all I need to tell Rice.”

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