The Daily Gamecock

Lone student body president candidate wants to focus on student experience, infrastructure concerns

<p>Student Body President candidate Patton Byars stands outside of USC's School of Journalism and Mass Communications for a posed photo on Feb. 9, 2024. Byars is running on a ballot with current student body member Courtney Tkacs for president and vice president, respectively.</p>
Student Body President candidate Patton Byars stands outside of USC's School of Journalism and Mass Communications for a posed photo on Feb. 9, 2024. Byars is running on a ballot with current student body member Courtney Tkacs for president and vice president, respectively.

Patton Byars, a third-generation Gamecock from Lexington, South Carolina, is running uncontested for the position of USC's next student body president.

After being denied a senate vacancy as a first-year student, Byars held the role of chief of staff under both Student Body Presidents Reedy Newton and Emmie Thompson. 

Byars, a third-year political science student, said he values servant leadership. Thompson showed him how to be a servant leader on campus, he said.

"I applaud Emmie for everything she's done, and now I'm here where I'm running for student body president," Byars said. "I've learned a lot from being chief of staff these past few years and from the people who have came before me, and I hope I can do that for the next generation of Gamecocks as well."

Byars has experienced dealing with senate legislation, handling memos and addressing various internal matters within Student Government.  Byars is ready to go to battle on behalf of the student body and win those battles, he said. He believes the position of student body president is a "change agent."

Byars said he thinks one of the reasons why promises are made and not fulfilled in Student Government is because student body presidents aren't persistent in their proposals when the administration tells them "no".

"I don't take 'no' for an answer," Byars said. "I'm going to keep working until — it doesn't matter if I have to call them at 9 p.m., if I have to go to their house. I don't know. I don't care, but I'm going to get something done because results matter more than talk," Byars said. 

Byars said he is running on issues that are not only personal for the student body but also personal to him. His administration's main goals include looking at issues surrounding infrastructure, Wi-Fi, safety and the student experience

"Our Wi-Fi is not good. It's not," Byars said. "I was kicked out of two exams and one quiz just last semester ... We need to work for students all over campus to have the best, consistent and reliable Wi-Fi possible. We are (21st-century) students, and we deserve 21st-century infrastructure and Wi-Fi."

Byars said that when USC's new chief information officer, who is responsible for digital accessibility compliance, begins in March, he plans to meet with them on the day he is inaugurated. 

"I will be knocking on their door. I'll be talking to them constantly. I will be sending emails because it is something the students deserve," Byars said. "You can't be a successful student without consistent and reliable Wi-Fi."

One part of infrastructure that Byars is hoping to improve is the quality of academic buildings for students. He said he understands that not all buildings can be as high of quality as the Darla Moore School of Business, but certain buildings still need upgrades.

"I'm a poli-sci student. So in Gambrell (Hall), some of my tables literally have a slant where if I put a water or a coffee, it will slide off," Byars said. "We can do better, and we deserve better."

Byars said he wants his administration to prioritize student safety both on and off campus. He wants to improve lack of lighting at night and the effectiveness of blue light boxes.

Byars intends to fix this concern by arranging meetings with Columbia Mayor Daniel Rickenmann, he said. Street lighting in certain areas is controlled by the City of Columbia and not the university.

"Sometimes safety doesn't always mean on-campus issues. Students aren't always on campus," Byars said. "Students aren't living on campus because ... they don't even have an option to live on campus."

Byars said he also wants to improve the student experience for upperclassmen and transfer students, addressing concerns about insufficient on-campus housing options and inadequate information provided to them.

"We see the first-year banners (that say) the 'No. 1 first-year experience,' and that's great and we don't deny that, but there's a reason we don't have the best four-year experience, and we don't have a banner for it," Byars said. "It's because we don't have it." 

Byars wants his his administration to work on getting on campus housing for upperclassmen because they deserve it, he said.

Byars said that his administration is going to make sure that the student experience is the best it can be. Another aspect to that experience is that USC has many student organizations that need funding to succeed, he said. 

Byars said  the student body is looking for results and solutions, not excuses from Student Government. His administration will aim to be a catalyst for change in the Student Government offices, he said.

"In the (Leadership and Service Center), you guys are going to see action, not talk. And that's exactly what the students deserve," Byars said. "I think starting last year we finally have seen a way to (get) this done. Like I said, Student Body President Emmie Thompson has done a great job at keeping her promises, and I pledge to not just keep my promises, but I'm going to build off of hers and get mine done as well." 

Byars said his strong communication skills make him a good candidate for the student body presidency. The end of the campaign season won't be the last time students hear from him, but rather the beginning, he said.

"It'd be the honor of a lifetime to serve as your next student body president, and I'm going to get things done for you," Byars said. "You can take it to the bank. When I say something, I mean it. I say it, and it will get done."

USC students can cast their votes for executive student office candidates from Feb. 20 to 21 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Elected students will take office on March 20.


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