It took two elections, two debates, and eight days longer than expected, but the Harvard Kennedy School has finally elected a new student government.
Sam Yoon, a second-year master’s of public policy student, was elected student body president of the Kennedy School on Wednesday. Yoon’s running mate, first-year MPP student Cara E. Oneal-Radigan, will serve as executive vice president.
Interim student government leadership, which led the body over the summer break, suspended the first election on Sept. 20, after an IT failure resulted in dozens of students failing to receive any information about the electoral process. Prior to its suspension, the initial election was mired in controversy for weeks because candidates were running unopposed for several positions — including for president.
But many of the problems from the first election persisted during the Kennedy School’s second attempt at electing a student government.
Another IT issue forced some first-year MPP students to manually vote by emailing their ballot rather than using the official voting platform. Several positions also remained uncompetitive, including the role of executive vice president, for which Oneal-Radigan ran uncontested.
Imogen M. A. Hobby, interim HKS student government president, and Bethany M. Kirkpatrick, interim vice president, wrote in a statement Thursday that 13 votes for the first-year MPP class representative were cast manually, with the remaining 146 votes submitted through the voting platform after the error was fixed.
“No other positions were affected by the IT issue,” Hobby and Kirkpatrick wrote.
“We are grateful to the student body for their continued engagement in the election process and we look forward to seeing the newly elected KSSG get to work on the issues that matter to our community,” Hobby and Kirkpatrick wrote in a separate statement Thursday.
Oneal-Radigan said she was “very surprised” to learn she was the sole candidate for executive vice president.
Asked if the lack of competition for the role reflected a general disinterest in student government, Oneal-Radigan said she wonders if the student government “feels like a step down” for people who have served in various levels of U.S. and foreign governments.
“In this school, so many people have experience in the U.S. government and local state governments and governments of other countries, because there are so many international people,” she said. “I think people have big ambitions and that doesn’t necessarily translate to student government for everybody.”
Omar M. Awad, a first-year, mid-career master’s of public administration student, ran unopposed for president in the first election. But he faced a larger field in the second election, with five other candidates entering the race.
Awad, who lost the presidential race to Yoon, said that the electoral process “wasn’t perfect,” in an interview Thursday.
“Unfortunately, I was on the receiving end of that,” Awad said. “But this is something that I am also committed to continue to work on — on making it definitely better the next time around.”
Sergio Herrera Carranza, who unsuccessfully ran for vice president of professional development in the second election, said “it’s regrettable” that the Kennedy School student body was unable to smoothly execute a student government election.
“It has been really tough for me to try to organize events because we still don’t have a student government,” Herrera Carranza said. “It is literally like a month where we cannot do anything, we cannot get budget for activities, we cannot get anything approved.”
“It is ironic and sad,” he added.
—Staff writer Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MHerszenhorn.