The Daily Gamecock

Student body president candidates seek to broaden diversity, increase inclusivity

<p>Reilly Arford (left) and Emily "Emmie" Thompson (right) are the candidates running to be the next student body president. Students can vote for candidates from Feb. 21 at 9 a.m. to Feb. 22 at 5 p.m.&nbsp;</p>
Reilly Arford (left) and Emily "Emmie" Thompson (right) are the candidates running to be the next student body president. Students can vote for candidates from Feb. 21 at 9 a.m. to Feb. 22 at 5 p.m. 

Both candidates for student body president say they plan to increase diversity within Student Government, broaden the organization's reach and address common concerns among the student body.

Emily "Emmie" Thompson, third-year public relations student

Thompson said she is running for student body president with the objective of putting students first and serving her community.

"There's still so many concerns students have," Thompson said. "I know how I can make tangible and realistic solutions to those problems."

She said her previous positions in Student Government, secretary of campus relations on the executive cabinet and deputy chief of staff to the Student Body President Reedy Newton, helped her witness these concerns firsthand.

"I realized how little faith students have in their own student government," Thompson said. "I think that disconnect is clear, and it's that we haven't been historically putting students first."

To address the cost and lack of parking spots on campus, Thompson recommended offering students in need a way to apply for a half-priced parking pass, which is currently $400 a semester.

Thompson also proposed the creation of an on-campus parking guide to show students the most convenient and available parking spots on campus.

With the goal of increasing safety on gamedays, Thompson said she would advocate for the installation of charger plugs at Williams-Brice Stadium so students can stay in touch with their friends and get home safe. She also aspires to work with Uber to create a discount that students can utilize on gamedays to ensure everyone has a safe trip home.

Thompson also wants to work with the Office of the Provost to implement Carolina Core courses that teach students applicable life skills, including classes on financial literacy and mental wellness.

"A lot of my friends would benefit from a tax course over maybe a biochemistry course," Thompson said.

Thompson said part of the reason she picked her running mate, Abrianna Reaves, is because she is a marketing and finance student, which makes her well-qualified the vice president's role, according to Thompson.

"You have to have somebody that knows how to market themselves well and market the organization well," Thompson said.

Reilly Arford, third-year political science student

Arford is running for student body president to make Student Government more open to and focused on students as he wants to spare other students his past experience being rejected from the organization.

"I was denied twice from Student Government and then given really no real alternatives as to where I should go," Arford said. 

Arford said it's important to give every student the opportunity to be in student government and have a seat at the table. He said that in developing better diversity in leadership, students need to "know how to build seats for everybody at the table."

To reach his diversity goals, Arford said he wants to add a mandatory module to build diversity and equity from early on in students' careers, similar to how every incoming student has to take an Alcohol Edu module, and add DEI instruction to University 101.

While Arford does not have a running mate on his ticket, he said he plans to prioritize compromise and cooperation with Reaves if they are both elected.

For the rest of his team, Arford wants to assemble a cabinet full of "intellectual and like-minded individuals" who all have the goal of implementing more diversity and inclusivity within Student Government. 

"If we're doing Student Government right, my vice president and speaker are all going to have the same goals because we want students more involved," Arford said. "That's something that most people can agree on."

Arford said the experience he has gathered in Student Government as the deputy director of the "It's On Us" initiative in the vice president's office has prepared him with the knowledge to create legislation for students and better include them in the process.

To make this connection, Arford said he wants to allow students to bring their concerns directly to him and advocate for them with his non-voting position on the university's board of trustees.

"A lot of times students don't feel heard, and so when you don't feel heard, you don't want to participate in organizations that aren't hearing you," Arford said. "Student Government should always hear the students."