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HES Students Call on Next Harvard President to Promote Equality Across Schools

The Harvard Extension School administrative office sits in the midst of Harvard Square, at 51 Brattle Street.
The Harvard Extension School administrative office sits in the midst of Harvard Square, at 51 Brattle Street. By Annie E. Schugart
By Kirsten O. Agbenyega and Lenny R. Pische, Crimson Staff Writers

Following former University President Claudine Gay’s resignation early last month, some Harvard Extension School students are advocating for a president who will promote equality across Harvard’s schools.

The upcoming presidential search will likely be highly consequential for Harvard, with eyes both inside and outside of Harvard scrutinizing the administration’s efforts to calm tensions on campus.

HES student Deepak Rana wrote in an emailed statement that students would like the new president to strive towards equality among schools.

“We want fairness for everyone in all our schools, making sure everyone’s skills are recognized,” he wrote. “The president should treat students from every school the same way, including HES students.”

Emina Dedić, president of the Harvard Extension Student Association, pointed to a similar issue, saying that “the president could play a prominent role in ensuring that we’re properly represented and that our voices are heard and included in the greater Harvard community.”

Some students also said they would like to see a president who could guarantee proper representation and equality across all Harvard schools.

Anastassia Nefedova, a master’s student at the Extension School, said the president should focus on “leveraging the fact that the University has all these schools that can help each other,” which “is a huge opportunity area.”

In particular, many HES students are calling on the University to remove the phrase “in Extension Studies” from their degrees, a years-long campaign that students say carries high stakes in better integrating the Extension School with the rest of Harvard.

Falguni Dharodiya, a master’s student at the Extension School, said it was important for the new president to see the “HES student association’s efforts on removing that ‘extension studies.’”

Dedić, also pointed to the degree name change as something students hope the next president will weigh carefully.

“I would like to see ‘in extension studies’ to be removed entirely,” Dedić said.

HES students also pointed to the challenges the next president will face while navigating ongoing tensions on campus over the war in the Middle East.

Dharodiya said the president should “be open to listening to diverse ideas.”

Nefedova also said the president should be “experienced in management” in order to be successful in “navigating leading complex emotions throughout the demographics of the university and the tensions across those different groups.”

Some students also pointed to the outsized volume of external critics. Dedić said the next president will need to have “a strong will.”

“The outside media portrayal, it hasn’t been exactly friendly to the University,” Dedić said.

The president must be “able to deal with that adversity,” Dedić added, “understanding that there’s no such thing as such as someone not being criticized in some way or another.”

“Being able to roll with those punches is going to be very important,” she said.

Still, Rana wrote that the president “should follow Harvard’s values while dealing with all the changes happening now.”

“The most important qualities for the new president of the world’s most prestigious university include unwavering leadership combined with a strong moral compass that withstands societal and political pressures,” he wrote.

—Staff writer Kirsten O. Agbenyega can be reached at kirsten.agbenyega@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Threads @kirstena006.

—Staff writer Lenny R. Pische can be reached at lenny.pische@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @lenny_787 or on Threads @lenny.787.

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