More than 20 Harvard Extension School students gathered in Harvard Yard Saturday to protest the language that appears on their degrees.
The Extension School offers open enrollment coursework, including more than 40 certificates in professional fields, as well as Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Master of Liberal Arts degrees. Regardless of their fields of study, graduates of HES receive degrees “in extension studies.”
Led by Harvard Extension Students Association President Emina Dedic, protesters chanted, “What do we want? Academically accurate degrees! When do we want them? Now!” and “Don’t spit in our faces, we earned our places.” Protesters also held signs that read, “We don’t study extensions” and “I still don’t study extensions.”
The protest follows several years of debate over Extension School diploma designations. In 2019, then-Dean of the Division of Continuing Education Huntington D. Lambert said he thought the degrees should be rephrased, calling them “academically wrong.”
Following a similar rally in October 2022, current Dean of the DCE Nancy Coleman wrote in a statement that the DCE would “continue to explore the question of degree naming in appropriate governance venues.”
Protesters at the rally claimed the vague verbiage on the degrees posed a barrier to securing employment after graduation.
“Numerous people have lost jobs over this, and resume software is not recognizing ‘extension studies’ because it’s actually not a field that exists in academia, and therefore we are disenfranchised in the real world in a very very bad way,” Dedic said at the rally.
Attendees also cited the disparity between the language on their diplomas and those from other Harvard schools.
“We sit in the same classroom as Harvard College students and students from other colleges, and we get the same level of education, the same quality content, and we’re very proud of that,” said Mohammed K. Ali, an Extension School student from South Africa. “We want our certificates to show that we belong here, and we don’t study extension studies.”
At the rally, some Extension School students also said they had difficulty finding affordable housing near campus. Harvard University Housing designates Extension School students as “not eligible” to lease apartments through the University, though they may sublet from eligible students.
The Extension School awards more than 1,000 degrees each year, but most of its students complete their coursework online. According to Dedic, no more than 111 HES students are living on campus this semester.
In the absence of on-campus housing options, Ali said, he had struggled with high hotel costs, sublet prices, and long commutes from Boston.
“At Harvard Extension School our housing options are so limited that I know people who have actually lived in tents and bought passes for the gym so that they can shower,” Dedic said at a meeting of the Harvard Graduate Council last week.
Coleman and DCE spokesperson Harry J. Pierre did not respond to a request for comment on the School’s degree language and housing policies.
—Staff writer Tilly R. Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to omit a quote from a speaker who did not provide informed consent to be named in the article.