This past fall, the Texas A&M Student Government Association (SGA) created a new position designed to improve communication between the student body at Texas A&M and the City of College Station. Wayne Beckerman, a current student at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, now holds that position, serving as the first Student Government Association (SGA) vice president of municipal affairs. The position was created by current SGA president, Joseph Benigno, in response to student concerns about certain housing ordinance changes within College Station. Beckerman shared the concern for better communication between the A&M student body and the College Station City Council, having been active in the SGA during his undergraduate years at the University.
“I noticed there wasn’t a lot of communication between the city and students,” said Beckerman. “During the spring semester, I interned in Austin with the Student Senate Community Affairs chairwoman; and we talked about some of the difficulties she was having since the current executive cabinet position was responsible for five different things instead of being solely focused on municipal affairs. I figured someone should be able to fill that role, which really got me interested in this position,” he added.
While housing ordinances were an impetus in creating the position, Beckerman has been communicating with the College Station City Council on a variety of issues, including the regulation of Uber and extending a retaining wall on Northgate in order to prevent serious auto/pedestrian accidents. Beckerman and the SGA have also partnered with county officials to go on neighborhood walks, talking to residents in an effort to improve relations between local residents and A&M students. Beckerman’s role in municipal affairs has taken him to several community events, where he has been able to receive feedback from local residents about community issues and communicate those concerns to the students.
After only a few months in the newly established role, Beckerman says he can tell communication between the city and A&M students is improving.
“I can tell from my interactions with city officials that they are really thankful to have someone who can hear what their perspective is and bring it back to the student body and also be able to explain the student perspective to them,” said Beckerman. “Many times, they are reading quotes from The Battalion or The Eagle and trying to figure out, ‘Is this really how the student body feels?’ I have noticed they really appreciate these lines of communication, and solidifying them within a permanent SGA position is invaluable.”
In December, the College Station City Council voted unanimously to establish a student representative position on the Council. While the student representative would not be counted toward the Council’s quorum or be able to vote, a student representative would have speaking privileges and the ability to comment on different issues that come before the city council.
As a Bush School student, Beckerman has been able to draw from what he is learning in classes and apply that to his role in municipal affairs. He says classes in economics and state and local government have provided a solid foundation for understanding important government issues, such as the decision making behind tax policies and issues specific to state and local governments.
“I took Dr. Bowman’s state and local class last fall and that really opened my eyes to the different theories and reasons behind some of the things you see happen in local government,” said Beckerman. “That class allowed me to look through a different lens in understanding ordinances and different situations.”
In addition to attending city council meetings and being available to city officials, Beckerman also keeps regular office hours each Thursday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on A&M’s main campus (Koldus Student Services Building 126B). He hopes to get more student feedback not just from undergraduate students but from graduate students as well in order to best represent the opinions and concerns of the A&M student body to the City of College Station. During the coming spring semester, he hopes to continue to make sure student voices are heard in important city decisions.
“I want to continue to ensure that when a city decision is made, whether it deals with Uber, safety in Northgate, or housing, students’ voices are heard and the student body understands the city’s perspective and how those decisions are made,” said Beckerman. “From a broad perspective, I don’t know how we’re going to approach the different issues; but facilitating communication between both those sides is the overarching goal.”