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BSA Picks New Leader

President-elect chosen amid runoff, e-mail voting controversy

By Shayak Sarkar, Crimson Staff Writer

After tying his opponent in the Black Students Association (BSA) presidential election last Friday, Lawrence E. Adjah Jr. ’06 won a runoff election late Sunday evening to take the helm of the organization.

The runoff election ended in a 104-60 victory for Adjah over Zachary D. Raynor ’05, representing a significant shift from the 63-63 split earlier in the week.

But despite the decisive victory, the runoff was marked by controversy when some students who were unable to attend the runoff meeting at 8 p.m. were allowed to vote by e-mail.

“There were definitely people who disagreed with the fact that the runoff elections were conducted through e-mail,” said Alecia J. McGregor ’06, a member of the BSA and the Association of Black Harvard Women (ABWH).

In an e-mail to the BSA e-mail list, Dominique C. DeLeon ’04 expressed concern that the online elections would strip the voting process of its anonymity.

BSA member Shanai T. Watson ’07 echoed DeLeon’s discomfort with permitting e-mail votes, which were then counted by members of the outgoing BSA board.

“I don’t think people distrusted the board,” Watson said. “It was more an issue of maintaining the anonymity of the ballots.”

In the e-mail, DeLeon suggested that Adjah’s being named sophomore “Man of the Year” by ABHW on Saturday night called into question the fairness of the runoff process.

But McGregor said that there was no peculiarity to the timing of the annual tribute or to the announcement of the honorees.

DeLeon said yesterday that he thought his concerns about the election’s process had been answered adequately by the outgoing president, Olamipe I. Okunseinde ’04.

“Whatever concerns I had, the board dealt with in a meaningful way,” he said.

Raynor, who lost in the runoff, said he was happy with the way the election was handled.

“I think the board was trying to find the most effective way to allow everyone to vote,” said Raynor.

Adjah said that he tried not to let the controversy affect him during the election.

“I stayed focused on the election and thought about how I could best convey to our membership why I should be in this position,” he said. “It was hard to run against him but there is still a lot of love and respect between us.”

Adjah heard of his victory in a phone call from Okunseinde, who is also a Crimson editor.

“I felt so grateful and felt blessed,” said Adjah, who just finished serving as BSA treasurer. “The name ‘BSA’ has a lot of connotations and it has to be all of those things. You have to appeal to your membership which means being everything: social, political and cultural. As president, I want to assure this happens.”

Raynor will continue his involvement in BSA in the upcoming year, despite his defeat.

“The student body obviously couldn’t decide between us and I think both of us are qualified, so Lawrence will do a great job,” Raynor said. “I’ve already had a meeting with him and will provide assistance to him whenever possible.”

The other new BSA board members are Vice President Marissa A. Mike ’05, Secretary Curry E. Cheek ’07, Treasurer Rashan Jibowu ’06, Arts and Entertainment Chair Amanda-Jane A. Thomas ’07, Publicity and PR Chair Lauren N. Westbrook ’07, Public Service Chair Paula-Raye C. O’Sullivan ’07, Political Action Chair Senait Tesfai ’07, Publications Chair Nneka C. Eze ’07, Alumni Representative Jennifer N. Green ’07 and Senior Representative Helen O. Ogbara ’05.

—Staff writer Shayak Sarkar can be reached at ssarkar@fas.havard.edu.

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