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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Student leaders say they advocate for students despite recent news coverage

Photo by Chris Swann

Sophomore Speaker Pro Tempore Robert Hargrove looks upon the Student Senate meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023.

Texas A&M has experienced a tide change in its Student Government Association, or SGA, leadership after the impeachment and removal of former Student Body President Hudson Kraus. Now, several student leaders are hoping to combat the perception that SGA is not effectively advocating for students.

As a part of SGA’s legislative branch, the Student Senate passes legislation and advocates for issues on behalf of the student body. As the pro tempore, Robert Hargrove serves as second-in-command to the speaker of the senate. Hargrove said he ran for the SGA position to advocate for resolving student issues in his school.

“I saw the different things that you can do within the Student Senate to help students and make their voice louder,” Hargrove said. “I was inspired by the work they got done at the beginning of the year. I got to see their work on ‘Print is not dead.’ The ability of the Student Senate that we have to work with the administration and make change across campus is inspiring. I wanted to make a difference for the people that I represent in the school of education.”

Since the start of the 76th legislative session, the Student Senate has passed five acts, one bill and 14 resolutions. No piece of legislation has failed this current session.

One example of passed legislation is the University Rule 11.08 Resolution. The resolution asks the Office of the Provost to amend the university’s posthumous degree requirements to make it easier for Aggies who passed away to get posthumous degrees, if their family requests it.

Schools like the University of Georgia, Alabama and LSU have more lenient policies compared to A&M’s upheld current requirement that the student be enrolled in their final classes at the time of death. Multiple students who have been honored at this year’s Silver Taps would not be awarded a posthumous degree with A&M’s current rule.

Community Relations Chair and environmental studies junior Luke Morrison authored one of the Student Senate’s most recent “no more than four” resolutions. Morrison said the resolution requests the City of College Station to collaborate with students and faculty before strictly enforcing the decades-old, unenforced ordinance.

“The restriction is that no more than four unrelated individuals can live in a single-family house, which is a vast majority of the city,” Morrison said. “This affects so many students. We are advocating for [City Council] to get rid of the ordinance, but in the absence of that, expand[ing] the areas where students can live with more than four because the city is currently doing rezoning plans that would establish middle-housing and high occupancy overlays, which can be quite confusing.”

Starting June 2024, the city will strictly enforce the rule, fining defendants up to $2,000 for every violation of the ordinance, Morrison said.

“This is extremely important for students … students can get criminal records and fines of up to $2,000 per night,” Morrison said. “[It is] absolutely insane. I wouldn’t believe it, if I didn’t know about it.”

On Oct. 12, Hargrove, Morrison, other student senators and SGA officials, like new Student Body President Andrew Applewhite and Vice President of Municipal Affairs Ben Crockett, attended a College Station City Council meeting to advocate on behalf of the student body against the no more than four ordinance. Morrison said he is saddened by a recent article published in The Eagle focusing on Kraus’ impeachment, which he said has taken away from the work SGA has done since the start of the session.

“Whenever you are focusing on something like an impeachment, it just dulls the perception [of SGA] and kind of just makes it seem like it’s all a joke or maybe it’s not as serious as we want it to be,” Kate McKinney, SGA’s vice president for programming, told The Eagle.

Morrison said SGA has been working despite the impeachment.

“It’s been unfortunate that this has been such a distraction [for the media] from [our work],” Morrison said. “At the same time, we have not been distracted. We have been moving and having meetings. I read The Eagle article recently, talking about how work in SGA has come to a standstill. I thought that was so untrue.”

His calendar was completely booked surrounding the impeachment date, Morrison said.

“I went back and looked at my calendar,” Morrison said. “All the meetings I had before, all the meetings I had right after, many with Ben Crockett, with members of the Executive branch — certainly it’s divisive, but at the same time, we’ve been working, working hard, and that work has not slowed down.”

Within the week of the Sept. 27 impeachment hearing, Morrison said he had a meeting with the vice president of Municipal Affairs, had a phone call with a senator the day before and had a breakfast meeting with the chief of police.

“We’ve been doing things,” Morrison said. “Members of the Exec[utive branch] were either at these [meetings] or invited. We had our differences, but the work continued, and the work continues now. There are so many opportunities as we look to the future.”

Hargrove said he hopes to restore faith in the student body’s perception of SGA by continuing to advocate for issues important to A&M students alongside Student Senate and SGA members.

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