Cornel West accuses Harvard University of “spiritual bankruptcy” | Books
Author, activist and scholar Cornel West has resigned his post as professor at Harvard University, accusing the institution of “a deep intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy.”
West, a prominent black intellectual, had argued with Harvard over his tenure. His departure from college and his new role at Union Theological Seminary in New York was announced in March. West has now posted his Harvard resignation letter to his social media accounts, citing the “spiritual decay” in the “market-driven universities” of the United States and the “decline and decay” at the theological school. from Harvard where he taught.
“When I arrived four years ago – with a lower salary than I had received 15 years earlier and without tenure status after being a university professor at Harvard [in the 90s] and Princeton – I hoped and prayed that I could still end my career with some semblance of intellectual intensity and personal respect. How wrong I was! West writes. “With a few glorious and glaring exceptions, the shadow of Jim Crow was cast in his shimmering new form expressed in the language of superficial diversity: All of my classes were encompassed in African American religious studies, including those on the existentialism, American democracy and the conduct of life.
West writes that his faculty supported him as a candidate for tenure, but continued to “timidly refer to a rejection based on the Harvard administration’s hostility to the Palestinian cause,” describing it as “disgusting. And lambasting Harvard for “bankruptcy of the deep depths.” West told the New York Times in March of his belief that reluctance to grant him a mandate could have been linked to his support for the Palestinian cause. Harvard declined to comment on the situation.
West had already left Harvard in 2002, after a dispute with its then president, Lawrence Summers. The publication of his letter comes after the board of trustees of the University of North Carolina suspended the tenure of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones over concerns from Conservative members. Hannah-Jones, the reporter behind The New York Times Magazine’s Project 1619, had been named the university’s next Knight Chair, a position that was previously permanent. After protests from staff, students and alumni, and a threat of legal action, the board reversed its position and offered Hannah-Jones a full term, but she subsequently announced that she had declined the offer and that she would serve as the inaugural Knight Chair in Running and Reporting at Howard University.
“Since the second year when I started being taken to white schools, I have fought against people who didn’t think that a black girl like me belonged, people who tried to control what I did, how I spoke, what I looked like, the work I produced. I never asked for special treatment. I did not look for it here. All I asked was to be judged on my credentials and treated fairly and equitably, ”Hannah-Jones said in a statement.
“I decided that instead of fighting to prove that I belong to an institution which, until 1955, forbade black Americans to attend, I will instead work in the legacy of a university not built through slaves but for those who were once. For too long, black Americans have learned that success is defined by entering and succeeding in historically white institutions. I did, and now I’m honored and grateful to join the long legacy of black Americans who have defined success by working to build their own. “