The executive candidates for Student Government sat down with The Daily Gamecock and SGTV to explain their goals for their position and plans to better the university.
Only one person is running for each executive position. This means each person will be unopposed for the 2024 election.
The candidates will participate in a debate at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday in the Russell House Theater before voting begins at 9 a.m on Feb. 20. Students will have until 5 p.m. on Feb. 21 to cast their votes online for executive and senate positions.
Student body president
Patton Byars is the sole candidate for student body president. Byars, who is a third-year political science student, has served as the chief of staff for former Student Body President Reedy Newton and current Student Body President Emmie Thompson.
Byars’ campaign focuses on safety, Wi-Fi, infrastructure and student experience. He is running alongside Courtney Tkacs, who is the only candidate for vice president.
He hopes to address the poor quality of some academic buildings but realizes that not every building will have the same infrastructure as the Darla Moore School of Business. He aims to improve off-campus safety by adding more lighting to streets off campus through working with the City of Columbia.
"Sometimes safety doesn't always mean on-campus issues," Byars said. "Students aren't always on campus."
If elected, he said he will focus on addressing concerns with upperclassman housing so that the college experience improves for students as a whole.
"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. It's because we don't have it," Byars said.
Tkacs is the sole candidate for vice president. Tkacs, who is a second-year public health and political science student, served on freshman council and is the chief of staff for Speaker of the student senate Cameron Eubanks.
Tkacs plans to run on the same campaign as Byars, focusing on Wi-Fi, infrastructure, safety and student experience.
She hopes to work on these issues by showing administrators and stakeholders data about struggles students are facing.
One example would be showing the ratio of the number of students who apply for on-campus housing compared to those who are accepted for on-campus housing.
"Specifically with infrastructure, I am very, very passionate about being able to live on campus, and that kind of ties into student experience as well," Tkacs said.
Some of her own goals include improving communication with the student body about Student Government initiatives and increasing representation of student groups.
"I will make sure that I'm fighting for every student here on campus," Tkacs said.
Speaker of the student senate
Maura Hamilton is the sole candidate for speaker of the student senate. Hamilton, who is a second-year nursing student, has served as a senator for the College of Nursing and chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Hamilton is running on the promise to serve students and faculty while making improvements to spaces around campus and in classrooms.
One of her goals is to make Wi-Fi more accessible by improving internet connection in outdoor spaces. She would also like to make student health services more transparent when communicating to students about service fees.
“I know I've had personal experiences where I went, and I thought something wasn't going to cost that much,” Hamilton said. “And then I got a bill, and I was like, 'Wow, this costs a lot of money.' And as a college student, I don't necessarily have that much extra money.”
If she is elected, Hamilton said she wants to make sure she is serving each student. Her hope is that she and other senators can better learn how to represent their college.
“I want to make sure that they know that I'm here to serve them, and if they have an issue and they come to me with it, I'm going to work as best as I possibly can to address that issue,” Hamilton said.
Jacob Vaught is the sole candidate for treasurer. Vaught, who is a third-year mechanical engineering student, has served as chair of the ad hoc committee on finance reform.
Vaught hopes to help members transition to Student Government’s new financial codes as well as improve education about how student organizations can request funding for clubs.
The goal is to have those who are requesting money attend a finance workshop to help students understand the financial process better, he said.
Vaught also wants to inform students about how Student Government operates.
“A lot of students don't even know it exists or what Student Government does,” Vaught said. “So that's something that I think I would be able to help with, even though it's more of a vice president role."