Says original remarks were ‘clearly phrased badly’
The Harvard professor who made fun of conservative journalist Christopher Rufo’s Harvard Extension School degree as “not the same” as those earned by “normal” Harvard students … has offered an apology.
Jennifer Hochschild, a professor of government and African/African American Studies whose work was plagiarized by former Harvard President Claudine Gay, had accused Rufo of “try[ing] to attach himself to Ivy status and prestige” by noting he has a master’s degree from Harvard.
“Rufo could have proudly and honorably said, ‘I pulled myself up by bootstraps; to prove it I have master’s degree from Harvard extension school, along with other smart and gutsy students,'” Hochschild (pictured) wrote on X.
“Instead he used weasel words to try to attach himself to Ivy status and prestige. Insecurity??”
Rufo holds a Master’s of Liberal Arts degree from the HES. He noted on X earlier this month he’s never tried to hide the distinction, and posted a screencap of a December tweet which directly refutes Hochschild’s contention: “I earned a master’s degree from Harvard’s night school — not nearly as prestigious as the graduate school” (emphasis added).
The Harvard Extension Student Association also responded to the professor’s comments, writing in a statement that its members were “deeply disturbed and disappointed.”
“We firmly oppose any notion that undermines the hard work, dedication, and professional acumen of our peers and alumni,” the HESA wrote. “Generalizations that denigrate HES students do more than unjustly diminish individual achievements; they erode the foundational values of diversity, respect, and academic rigor that are essential to the fabric of Harvard University, and all of its degree-granting schools.”
Hochschild responded with an email to the HESA, shared with the Harvard student paper The Crimson, apologizing “for the way her posts were construed”:
“I am sorry that my comments were understood to imply a ‘sentiment . . . that undermines the value and reputation of our institution,’ and that they caused HES students and staff distress,” Hochschild wrote. “That is far from my views; Harvard is rightly proud of the quality of and access to education manifested every day by HES.”
In a follow up email, she reiterated her admiration for HES students, writing that their degrees show “gumption, commitment, passion for learning, desire to use education in the service of their job or family or self.”
My point, which was clearly phrased badly in the original tweet, was that students should proudly state their HES degree,” she wrote. “I have apologized to HES staff and students for inadvertently involving them in a silly debate (of course an HES degree is a real Harvard degree—who said otherwise??) and in an inappropriate challenge to what they should be proud of.”
Hochschild’s follow-up message also noted she is “completely and enthusiastically in support of HES’s mission of opening access to Harvard courses through a different channel from the conventional admission process.”
On Saturday the professor referred to the whole situation as a “maelstrom,” writing to HES students “I regret that you got dragged into a dispute with nothing to do with you,” and again apologized for remarks which “seemed to suggest otherwise.”
On this maelstrom, mainly to HES students/staff: I regret that you got dragged into a dispute with nothing to do with you, that caused distress.I endorse and admire HES’s promotion of an inclusive, engaged, ambitious student body. I'm sorry my writing seemed to suggest otherwise.
— Jennifer hochschild (@Jenniferhochsc2) January 13, 2024
Rufo replied “She’s still digging. Imagine earning a BA from Oberlin, a PhD from Yale, and a professorship at Harvard, and never learning how to make a proper apology. The perfect symbol of an empty credential—all title, no class.”
According to her faculty page, Hochschild “studies and teaches about the intersection of American politics and political philosophy – particularly in the areas of race, ethnicity, and immigration.” Her recent publications include “Do Facts Matter? Information and MisInformation in American Politics” and “Creating a New Racial Order: How Immigration, Multiracialism, Genomics, and the Young Can Remake Race in America.”
In 2018, Hochschild had indicated her (Government) department was looking into an “electronic suggestion box” by which students could anonymously report professors who made them feel “uncomfortable.”
IMAGE: Harvard U.