For the first time in a decade, Winthrop University students campuswide will have the opportunity to elect their leaders.
Today and Friday, Winthrop's more than 6,000 students can take part in the democratic process and select their student body president and vice president.
The university ended campuswide elections in 2001 when it dissolved the former Student Government Association over lack of student involvement, said Sydney Evans, current student body president.
At that time, the SGA's nine members joined with representatives of other student organizations on campus to form the Council of Student Leaders.
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Since the council formed, its members - now more than 30 - have elected the student body president and vice president.
Senior Allison Rabon said elections are a great opportunity, though it might take a few years before the student body really gets involved in the process.
"The student body's not here right now," said Allison, who ate lunch with friends in the dining area of Winthrop's DiGiorgio Campus Center on Tuesday while the candidates fielded questions from students. About 75 students were eating lunch during the forum, but not all were there for it.
"Students aren't involved a lot," she said, "which is why (elections were) taken away."
The council has 17 automatic members elected yearly from the 10 largest student organizations, student athletics, publications and each academic college.
Another 17 members can apply to join the council and must be voted in by plus two-thirds of the council's members, plus one.
Improving student involvement in the council and its communication with the student body were priorities for all candidates.
Addressing parking issues and lobbying the state to pay for higher education in order to stave off tuition increases were ideas presidential candidate Kambrell Garvin and vice presidential candidate Kaitlin Sapp offered.
Presidential candidate Timothy Kroboth said he would fight to lengthen library hours, encourage more "global perspectives" in activities on campus, and inform students about study abroad opportunities.
Cliff Totherow said he would create a new way for students to communicate with the council.
All candidates encouraged students to participate in the council and the election and to voice their concerns.
Sophomores Cheryl Griffin and Mary Gibby sat down for lunch just after the forum ended and the candidates were making their rounds.
They didn't know about the elections until then, but admitted to having deleted many of their emails.
For Griffin, getting dozens of fraternity and sorority emails made her stop checking them. Clarifying the content of emails will help recipients sort the valuable news out of the "junk," she said.
That could lead to more student participation.
But for the two commuter students, parking and tuition are their greatest concerns. They complained of pot holes and tree stumps in an outer commuter parking lot on campus.
"There's something that rattles beneath my car" from driving in the lot, Griffin said.
"It's like driving over a washboard," Gibby said, if and when they can find parking, which at peak hours has students roaming the campus looking for spots.
But they've stopped complaining about both, they said.
"We figure we have no vote," Griffin said.
The new president and vice president will take over for Sophomore Sydney Evans and Junior Tripp Volk.
The president serves as the official student voice on the Winthrop Board of Trustees but has no vote on that panel.
The vice president chairs the committee within the council that oversees the allocation of $28,000 designated for student organizations.
The council meets at 7 p.m. every Monday in Dinkins Auditorium. All council meetings are open to the Winthrop campus community.
Students will vote online today and Friday. Results will be announced Monday.