International relations junior Pablo Pratt used to commute 40 minutes to campus each day for class. Now, with his license suspended, Pratt is enrolled in all online classes because he has no reliable means of getting to campus.
“I just wish there was a bus or a metro or something connecting where I live to near campus,” Pratt said. “I live with my parents because we can’t afford for me to buy housing down there.”
Passionate about affordable housing and transportation, Pratt joined the College Student Commission last spring to get more involved and to represent students and his University. However, the commission’s chair said they have yet to accomplish anything and are struggling to get members to attend.
“As far as what we’ve accomplished on paper: nothing,” said Maya Boehm, chair of the College Student Commission. “Since (the commission) is in the beginning stages, we’re still trying to figure out how is it going to function, how is it getting set up, how is that going to work.”
Boehm, a global studies and theology sophomore at Saint Edward’s University, said the commission is struggling to retain members due to schedule conflicts, graduation and communication issues.
The commission was created in 2017 by the Austin City Council to serve as a permanent advisory council for City Hall on student issues. Each university and college in the city would send three representatives to serve on the commission for a total of 15 student commissioners.
At their first official meeting on April 20, 2018, there were 14 members on the commission, according to the agenda. The members held a brief on the Students Housing and Tenants Rights resolution which aims to educate student renters on their rights when looking for housing. At their latest meeting, five of the now-eleven members were in attendance.
Boehm said the commission lost three members over the summer due to graduation or schedule conflicts. The tenants’ rights resolution has yet to be approved and sent to City Council.
The commission has tried to meet twice this year. Their first meeting was supposed to be on Jan. 25, but only three members showed up, partially due to a city email issue. The commission has items it wants to send to City Council but is unable to vote if meetings do not reach quorum. Since the commission is supposed to have 15 members but only has 11 active members according to the agenda, if four people are absent, they cannot take action.
Boehm said the commission is set to make more cuts to its roster as they evaluate who missed every meeting in the fall last year and who can be removed. Boehm said the goal is to recruit people who care about making a difference, fill the vacancies and focus on getting involved with the college student community.
“The goal is to get students who genuinely care about this ... and aren’t just doing it necessarily for their resume,” Boehm said.
Despite the lack of progress, Bohem said she thinks the commission is important and that the group just needs to get the ball rolling by finding more students and young people motivated to make a difference.
“It’s incredible what we can accomplish when we come together and do things,” Boehm said. “We need to come together and work on and vocalize rather than just live that college experience and thinking that we’re our own entity and separate from the rest of the city of Austin, because we are all ultimately Austinites, whether you like it or not.”