Economics junior Bobby Brooks will serve as the first openly gay student body president after the end of the latest Student Government Association elections, setting a hallmark for the university and its culture.
The official confirmation of Brooks’ victory came weeks after the polls closed due to the disqualification of candidate Robert McIntosh, who filed two different appeals attempting to overturn his disqualification.
“I would like it to echo the sentiment that I’ve always had, that I am just ready to get to work here, get things done,” Brooks said. “Someone had do it at some point. I think it’s less about me, Bobby, and more about a person that filled that role is now here and that is what’s really exciting for me.”
MSC President Brian O’Hara has worked with Brooks as the MSC Executive Vice President of Diversity over the last year to bring about changes like creating diversity dialogue for students to participate in.
While Brooks being elected is exciting, O’Hara said, this is just one step toward inclusion in the university.
“I think it’s easy for us to say that we have made progress,” O’Hara said. “We have as a university to a certain degree, but what’s more important is that our student leaders are continually more and more representative, and more and more true to they are as the student body. I think Bobby Brooks is an amazing Aggie, he loves Texas A&M and he happens to be gay.”
Current senior class president Claire Wimberly, who was also Brooks’ campaign manager, is looking forward to having Brooks in office and seeing what he will bring to the table.
“I hope to see him accomplish all that he set out to do during campaign. His goals — keeping student fees low, making student services meet real student needs, increasing feedback regarding academics and making our campus more inclusive — are all attainable,” Wimberly said. “I know he’s going to surround himself with an amazing team, and I am looking forward to the progress they are going to make on our campus.”
Bobby’s life and struggles with sexuality
Before he had any question of who he was, who he was attracted to or what he wanted to do, Bobby Brooks knew he wanted to be an Aggie.
“I was an Aggie from the first day that I was born, there was no choice about it,” Brooks said. “My sexuality was a non-issue in terms of selecting Texas A&M as a university because I knew what this university could offer.”
Despite the easy choice of attending Texas A&M, Brooks said his sexuality wasn’t something that came easy.
“My sexuality was something that I never wanted to particularly address growing up,” Brooks said. “I had a strong history of suppression with my own feelings toward that. I had known for a very long time but I didn’t want to accept that and thought it would just get better.”
In high school, Brooks began his career in student leadership and ran for student body president. Through that role, he also took his first steps in acknowledging his sexuality.
“Toward my senior year of high school, I actually ran for a senior class president position at my high school and whenever I got that certain people started paying more attention to me,” Brooks said. “Through that there was someone who I had always thought was attractive and whatnot so [we started talking]. So through that person, through that experience, I was able to explore that side of me, my sexuality, a little bit.”
After he graduated high school, Brooks spent time studying abroad in Paris. During that period he felt comfortable expressing himself as a gay man without the pressures he felt in Texas. Coming back to the United States and entering his freshman year of college put a pause of his self expression.
“So when I got here to Aggieland, it started out with me kind of being afraid of [my sexuality] in general because I was back in this Texas kind of pressure, but there was something new to it in that I was now my own person, more than I was back in high school,” Brooks said.
When Brooks made his way to College Station, he became involved with the organization MSC Freshmen Leadership International and made a friend who was French and encouraged Brooks to be comfortable with his identity.
“I eventually felt comfortable enough opening up to her ... So she and I went to get coffee and I set it up. I was like, ‘I have something big to tell you,’” Brooks said. “I was still so nervous. We chatted about it and then I told her in French… ‘Je suis gay.’”
The friendship allowed Brooks to grow into his sexuality in a healthy way, Brooks said. As time passed he became more and more comfortable with who he was, eventually telling his family the truth.
“I started opening up to more and more people, little bit by little bit. My family was very accepting,” Brooks said.
These experiences led to him pursue leadership roles at A&M so he could be representative of his character with the goal of fostering the values of others as well.
“If I sell my identity short, I’m selling the identities short of every single person on this campus who doesn’t have the opportunity to run for student body president,” Brooks said. “How am I supposed to tell someone’s little sibling who wants to come to Texas A&M that ‘It’s going to be fine, we’re working on a better Texas A&M,’ when I actively repress my identity for X amount of time just to get something?”
Plans for office
Brooks will take office following the final Muster speech of current SBP Hannah Wimberly April 21. He said he has three main goals going into office. First he is concerned A&M’s name in the field of academia.
“I want Texas A&M to be the name in Texas. We already have that happening, but I want people to be aware of that also because right now Texas A&M is doing a really good job of getting all sorts of students from all backgrounds and making leaders out of them that do succeed in the workplace. So right now it’s just making sure that that can be marketed better and get more people to buy into the university so that we can turn the wheel a little bit there,” Brooks said.
Brooks also hopes to bring improvements to Student Services, streamlining and upgrading its processes.
“Another thing [I will be] working on is student services, these are things that are going to affect students in their everyday life. We can do a heck of a lot of a better job of having the most efficient and user-friendly services on campus. I think we do have a lot good things coming our way in terms of upgrading the student experience,” Brooks said.
The final piece of his plans involve what he has been working with this entire year — diversity and inclusion.
“Finally it’s about that diversity and inclusion piece,” Brooks said. “Making sure that every student who comes here feels welcome and that is a 100 percent number. I want every single student to feel that they are welcome here and their contributions are welcome.”
Brooks said his campaign was built on the ideologies he has practiced this past year in the MSC, and the same thoughts he hopes to bring to the culture at A&M.
“It was getting back to the students and that is something that my experience has been based around from the very beginning. To me, this was fulfilling that dream I had been building since my freshman year,” Brooks said. “I saw that I wanted to do something on a big scale in this world, and I want to help people, and I want to make this world a better place, so I had to start somewhere.”