What happened when Dean Shinagel tried to remove “In Extension Studies”

In 2010, the then-Dean Michael Shinagel tried to change the names of Harvard Extension School degrees to remove the ridiculous and insulting “in Extension Studies”. I recall Shinagel had been talking about it since 2007 or 2008 at various HES events, and was even giving hints to media outlets such as Harvard Magazine. This tidbit appeared in January 2010:

A Century…and Change. Harvard Extension School having attained a landmark age (see “Extension School Centennial,” September-October 2009, page 47), it is considering updating its name. The proposed new title, the Harvard School of Continuing and Professional Studies, would recognize its dual mission of providing both liberal-arts and career-oriented courses and degree programs. If the Faculty of Arts and Sciences approves, the school will confer degrees such as the “Bachelor of Liberal Arts” and the “Master of Liberal Arts” and “Master of Professional Studies,” succeeding the current, but fusty, degrees “in extension studies.”

Although I did not agree with Shinagel on certain HES policies, I recognize that he was a true champion of the Extension School and its students. He was also a Harvard insider, and when it came time to push for change on the “in Extension Studies” issue, did things the Harvard way: Back-room lobbying followed up by a proposal to the faculty.

FAS also took the classic Harvard approach: They punted, and did nothing. Here’s the summary from the March 26, 2010 Crimson follow-up:

“Though the Faculty decided to postpone the vote to approve the name change for the following meeting, the proposal did not make the agenda for the last few meetings.

Dean of Continuing Education and University Extension Michael Shinagel said in a statement yesterday that the University will continue to evaluate suggested name changes, but is not prepared to make a decision at this time.

‘Any proposal to change the name of any Harvard school or the name of any degree awarded by the institution warrants thorough study and consideration,’ Shinagel said.”

Shinagel tried his best within the University’s decision-making framework, but at the end of the day he could do no more. That issue and a few others aside, he accomplished a great deal for HES (I urge those who are interested to read his book about the Extension School, “The Gates Unbarred”) and retired not long after.

Since then, we have had two deans and some people within the DCE administration who have vacillated between inaction and outright hostility to students pushing for a degree name change, judging by DSO trying to rig HESA elections a few years back to exclude a certain student activist and others like him. It’s clear the powers that be don’t want to rock the boat, and don’t want to advance students’ interests.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The only way to get FAS, Mass Hall, and the rest of the University to actually do something about the degree name is through sustained public awareness (which ESRI has done very well) and visible public demonstrations that highlight the second-rate treatment given to Harvard Extension School students. This is how marginalized groups on campus get better treatment, as demonstrated by the recent grad student demonstrations and unionization drive.

If FAS doesn’t listen, turn up the volume a notch. If they still don’t listen, turn it up two more notches and expand activities to Mass Hall and other decision-making groups. Don’t give up or trust anyone in power until the deed is done and these three ridiculous words – “in Extension Studies” are removed from ALB and ALM degrees.