Second-year law students Swap Agrawal and Tolu Alegbeleye have been elected co-presidents of the Harvard Law School Student Government for the 2023-24 academic year, the body announced in a March 30 email to students.
The Law School’s Student Government serves as “the student body’s voice to Dean Manning, Administration, and Faculty,” according to its website. The body’s responsibilities include allocating funds to student organizations, providing academic resources, and hosting events at the school.
In addition to the co-presidency, students voted on candidates for the director of student organizations, 3L representative, 2L representative, and S.J.D. representative positions. The body had four vacancies for the 3L and 2L positions, and one for the director of student organizations and S.J.D. role.
Agrawal and Alegbeleye campaigned on a platform to increase career and financial support for students pursuing public interest careers, provide resources to “make life at HLS easier,” and support student advocacy on campus, according to their campaign website.
In an interview, Agrawal and Alegbeleye said they ran for student office due to desire to “create positive change on campus.” Alegbeleye said she believes the HLS Student Government co-presidency puts the pair in a “really unique position” to enact change.
“We both acknowledged when we were running that student government doesn’t have a lot of formal power, but it does have the ability to reach literally everybody in the student body, which is something that none of the student orgs can do,” Alegbeleye said.
One goal for the pair’s tenure, according to Agrawal, is to address a concern that public interest careers “are inaccessible or feel inaccessible, at least, to a lot of people.”
“There are things that the University can do to correct that, whether that’s increasing front-end financial aid so that low-income and first-generation students are able to have more freedom with their career choices or improving the Low Income Protection program, which allows graduates who have a lot of debt to pursue lower paying careers by offering them loan assistance,” Agrawal said.
“Beyond that, there’s cultural things that the school can do by emphasizing more career advising,” he added.
Agrawal and Alegbeleye’s opponents for the co-presidency — M. Saeed Ahmad and Mohini Tangri — campaigned on better representation for the entire student body, including public interest-oriented students and religious groups.
Tangri said in an interview following the election results that she hopes to see a “public interest coalition” that would enable student activists to push for progress on multiple issues simultaneously.
Ahmad expressed hope about the turnout from the election but said he believes the HLS Student Government could still improve.
“One thing I do like was the increased participation we saw,” Ahmad said. “I think there can be more engagement with student government.”
First-year Law School student Vinny K. Byju ’20 — who was elected director of student organizations — said in an interview that he ran to improve the process of creating new student groups, following his own negative experience trying to form a new club.
According to Byju, his student organization’s application for a birdwatching club was denied this year after three months of no communication from the HLS Student Government.
This experience was shared by other applicants, according to Byju, who said he was left unsatisfied by the HLS Student Government’s response.
Byju said he wants to increase transparency in the student organization application process, adding that he does not understand why the process is “behind closed doors.”