Students enrolled at the USC Columbia campus are able to vote in special and general Student Government elections. The executive powers that students can vote for include student body president, student body vice president, speaker of the student senate and student body treasurer.
"All students are able to vote. Everyone from freshmen to third-year law school students," said Emmie Thompson, USC's student body president. "I think one of the common misconceptions is that it's only undergraduate students, but the student body president actually serves all of our students."
Thompson said she wants to clear up the confusion surrounding who is able to vote. She said that students should vote and consider the platforms that candidates run on so that they can determine for themselves "what's realistic and what can actually get done for (them)."
Thompson said that her role as student body president functions under many different hats. One includes overseeing all of Student Government, which contains about 300 members between the executive cabinet, communications team and student senate. She is also responsible for managing the organization's internal functions, encouraging teamwork and ensuring that members are working toward the common goal of serving students to the best of their abilities, she said.
The student body president is the official representative of Student Government and the university. They address the student senate annually and nominate members of the executive cabinet. They also have the ability to veto bills, call special sessions, make informal recommendations to the senate and appoint officials as deemed necessary for efficient governance.
The president may be granted additional duties and powers as outlined in the Student Government codes, as well, such as Section 1-1-15 (C), which allows them to remove and replace members on their staff. They also assist in preparing the Student Government budget alongside the treasurer, according to Article II of the Student Government constitution.
"As student body president, I kind of serve as the student representative to the president and for the university outreach programs," Thompson said. "I do a lot of speaking engagements, such as the orientation welcome speeches, convocation, etc. So kind of serving in an ambassadorial role as well."
Besides managing the internal functions of Student Government, the student body president is also responsible for speaking up on behalf of the students and their needs.
"I also serve in an advocacy capacity, focusing on prioritizing various initiatives from my campaign," Thompson said. "On a smaller scale, we successfully implemented portable chargers in the football stadium this semester for student safety, along with securing an Uber discount for game days. On a larger scale, I presented to the board of trustees, advocating for increased funding for Wi-Fi on campus and network improvements."
The student body vice president oversees the administration of Student Government programs, makes legislative recommendations and delivers annual reports to the student senate, according to Article II of the Student Government constitution. The vice president's duties also include nominating directors of Student Government programs and nominating or appointing officials in circumstances such as vacancies or resignations.
Thompson contacted current vice president Abrianna Reaves and asked her to assume the role because of her work ethic and commitment, she said. The vice president specifically oversees communications and marketing, and Thompson said she knew Reaves had a strong marketing background.
"Abrianna and I met up a couple times and discussed similar goals we have for improving the student experience. And we just kind of hit it off, and it's just been really great to work with her and see so many initiatives that we campaigned on come to life for students," Thompson said.
The vice president also works closely with marketing and outreach to students. Reaves told The Daily Gamecock last March that she wanted to focus on internal culture within Student Government, along with communication between Student Government and the student body.
The speaker manages the creation and passage of student body legislation, votes in tie-breaking situations and ratifies resolutions — without the ability to veto — made by the student senate. The speaker also communicates all legislation to relevant parties, recommends candidates for open senate seats and has the authority to call the student senate into special sessions.
Additional duties and powers may be granted to the speaker as outlined in the Student Government codes, such as Section 1-6-20 (C), which grants them the power to remove and replace staff members belonging to the Office of the Speaker of the Student Senate.
While it is not considered an executive position, students have the opportunity to run for the role of senator.
Senators, as defined by Article III of the Student Government constitution, are mandated to regularly attend senate meetings, exercise voting authority on student body legislation and give ideas, suggestions or proposals for consideration and discussion by the senate. Senators actively assess constituent needs by participating in relevant student organization meetings aligned with their represented school or college.
The student senate writes legislation and then votes on it within the body. Anytime a bill is written and passed by the senate, the student body president can either sign it so that it is officially added to the codes, or they can veto the bill.
Every college within the university has senators that represent it, and students from any academic year can serve as representatives for their respective colleges. But there is a branch of Student Government reserved specifically for freshmen. The freshman council "acts as an entry-level organization within Student Government with an emphasis on leadership and community involvement," according to the Leadership and Service Center.
"Freshman council is our specific first-year council," Thompson said. "We release the application over the summer so incoming freshmen can begin applying before they ever even come to USC, and so it's purely representing the first-year experience and how we can improve that."
Senators also have the option to run for speaker pro tempore.
As outlined in Article III of the Student Government constitution, the speaker pro tempore is elected at the beginning of each annual term by fellow senators and assumes several responsibilities. These include presiding over the senate in the absence of the speaker — while retaining full voting rights — as well as chairing the student senate rules committee and the delegation steering committee. They also serve as an informal liaison to the speaker of the senate by conveying the concerns of the senate and its members regarding its administration.
The student body treasurer is the last of the executive positions students may run for.
All members of Student Government will take office at the end of March and serve a full year term until March of the following year.
"I think a common misconception for students is that once we vote somebody new in in February is that they are taking over," Thompson said. "I know I speak for me and the other executive officers and the senators that we're going to be hard at work for the next full three months, and there's not any official turnover until the end of March."
Anybody that is in good standing with the university and has enough credit hours is eligible to run for a position, Thompson said. Student Government will hold interest meetings throughout the spring, which can be found on its website and social media.
The campaign season starts on Feb. 6, and voting will be from Feb. 20 to Feb. 21. Elected students will take office on March 20.