To kick off campus wide elections, the Council of Student Leaders held a presidential debate which allowed each of the six candidates to address the concerns of the student body. While a live feed displaying student’s comments and concerns were shown on screens in Richardson Ballroom, it was the audiences’ questions that sparked the most attention.
Topics such as campus safety, sustainability goals and Winthrop’s biggest challenges were discussed by the candidates.
Newly nominated candidates Kevin Johnston and John Barrera stressed that the pair had not been a part of CSL prior to the elections but that it gives the two a “fresh perspective.”
When asked about class schedules, Johnston and Barrera were adamant that they could balance both their class loads and leadership of the student body.
Johnston, a freshman business major, made mention of his Human Experience class multiple times during the week.
For junior international business major Chris Aubrie, the first issue that needs to be tackled for the next student body president is communication with incoming Winthrop president Dr. Jayne Comstock.
Aubrie’s running mate, Ian Deas, proposed a weekly meeting with Comstock in order to keep her informed of happenings within the student body and up to date on student concerns.
Many questions asked of the candidates during the debate received very similar answers across the board.
When candidates were asked what they saw as the biggest challenge at Winthrop, Aubrie and opponent Dillon Donolds agreed.
Aubrie said that he saw general student involvement as an issue while Donolds then took it a step further by noting low student attendance at athletic events.
Transparency with the student government organization was yet another issue that all of the candidates seemed to agree upon.
“CSL does a lot right,” Johnston said about the organization that he is not officially a member of. “We have to start with communication not only to CSL but to you guys.”
However, it was Donolds, a sophomore political science major, who brought a new idea to the table during the debate. Donolds proposed a new program where incoming freshmen would not only sign up for classes but also for an upperclassman mentor.
Johnston took the time to praise his opponents during the debate by saying that he has a “tremendous amount of respect” for those CSL members.
He then went on to praise himself by declaring that he authentically cares about what the students want.
Johnston released a video Tuesday morning on the first day of voting, in which Barrera went around to students encouraging them to write on a white piece of paper what they value in Winthrop.
Johnston credited much of his qualifications for the student body presidency position on his business experience. Johnston started his business when he was 16-years-old.
“What we want to work on is effectiveness,” Johnston said. “My business background gives me this experience.”
According to the freshman candidate, he has handled properties worth “millions” in his business that give him the experience necessary to be able to handle CSL’s budget.
Answers from the candidates began to differ once they were asked but a student in the audience asked how they planned to differentiate their personal beliefs from that of the job.
Aubrie stated that he had made Winthrop’s beliefs his own by keeping with Winthrop’s tradition of challenging its students. He said that he strives to challenge himself and others on a daily basis.
“I challenge myself everyday to go out there and make somebody smile,” Aubrie said.
However, Johnston’s view of the question differed. He told students at the debate that he would not be able to separate himself from his personal convictions, such as honesty and respect, if he were to be elected as the new CSL chair.
At the start of the debate, CSL had a live feed projected on the screen behind the candidates where students could text in comments either about the debate or the election in general.
The live feed was soon turned off after students began to mercilessly criticize the candidates and express sexual desires towards the youngest team.