Elections for the Harvard Extension Student Association (HESA), the school’s student government, will come to a close on Monday after almost a week of intense debates between candidates for the hotly contested board positions.
The election, in which three candidates are competing for the presidency, highlights the complexities of bringing together thousands of Extension School students enrolled in a broad range of degree and non-degree programs into a single community.
Carlos De La Rosa, a full-time student in the Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) program in information technology; Craig Sams, a Bachelor of Liberal Arts (ALB) candidate with an emphasis in creative writing and literature; and Richard Gonzalez, an ALM student in environmental management, are all running for president of the organization, which was formed in 2001.
“The student association is really new and the evolution of a heavily contested election is really new,” said Christian Hassold, the outgoing chair of the Harvard Extension Business Society and a former events coordinator and treasurer with HESA.
De La Rosa compared the Extension School’s social atmosphere to a “cellular” structure.
“Everyone knows five to ten people,” he said. “It will be breaking through that structure that is really important to building community.”
One hot-button issue is the way in which HESA funds are managed and allocated. This year, according to Hassold, the organization received $15,000 from the office of the Extension School dean.
Sams said the group spent nearly 80 percent of its funds within the first three months of the school year.
“It was a misstep in leadership,” he said.
De La Rosa also said the HESA budget is “not a lot of money,” and it “must be managed well throughout the year.”
The current HESA president, Lorena Corona, said the main challenge for her administration was shaping the internal workings of the association.
“We did not have any internal guidelines of how to do anything,” Corona said, but “in March we started putting in really good programs.”
De La Rosa said he wants to promote “competent management” on the HESA board.
“We can no longer make do with whoever walks in the door,” De La Rosa wrote on his Web site. “We will look at resumes, examine records of accomplishment, and train well to ensure cohesion.”
But Sams called De La Rosa’s approach to student government “autocratic.”
“Mine is an open-door policy to include the many different initiatives, ideas, and opinions of students,” Sams contended.
The Crimson was unable to reach Gonzalez, the third presidential candidate, for this story.
“Everyone running has good intentions for HESA,” Sams said. “It’s just a matter of style and how you perceive and evaluate the wishes of the students.”