Cornel West Tears Into Harvard University In Scathing Resignation Letter
The acclaimed intellectual asserts the Ivy League institution is suffering from "spiritual rot" and that some of its diversity attempts are plagued by the "shadow of Jim Crow."
July 13, 2021 at 1:51 pm
Cornel West announced Monday that he has resigned as a professor at Harvard University’s Divinity School, saying the institution was in a state of “decline and decay” and “spiritual rot,” the Washington Post reports.
Although West informed the administrators that he was resigning in March, Monday was the first time he shared his resignation letter — dated June 30 — with the public.
In the letter, West tore into Harvard. He says the university was unsympathetic to the death of his mother and cited many other reasons that compelled him to leave the institution.
"This kind of narcissistic academic professionalism, cowardly deference to the anti-Palestinian prejudices of the Harvard administration, and indifference to my Mother's death constitutes an intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy of deep deaths," West added.
West also alleged that Harvard is suffering from "intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy."
“How sad it is to see our beloved Harvard Divinity School in such decline and decay,” he wrote. “The disarray of a scattered curriculum, the disenchantment of talented yet deferential faculty, and the disorientation of previous students loom large.”
This is my candid letter of resignation to my Harvard Dean. I try to tell the unvarnished truth about the decadence in our market-driven universities! Let us bear witness against this spiritual rot! pic.twitter.com/hCLAuNSWDu
— Cornel West (@CornelWest) July 13, 2021
West had been embroiled in a public dispute over his lack of tenure in March.
In an interview with The Boycott Times, West spoke about some of the challenges he had with the administration and faculty of Harvard.
“Harvard has actually done very well in terms of bringing different peoples of different colors and gender at a high level into the administration,” he said. “But it does not yet translate on the ground in terms of faculty. It does not yet translate in terms of being able to speak to the seeking of truth amongst the students.”
West's letter to Harvard comes in the wake of Nikole Hannah-Jones’ struggle for tenure at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Both West and Hannah-Jones are highly regarded academics and well-known public intellectuals but have still battled for tenure.
This isn’t the first time that West left Harvard amid controversy. Back in 2002 West stepped down after an ongoing public feud with Larry Summers, the university’s president at the time.
He seemed to reference the return in his letter and the lowered salary that he says came with it.
"When I arrived four years ago — with a salary less than what I received 15 years earlier and with no tenure status after being University Professor at Harvard and Princeton — I hoped and prayed I could still end my career with with some semblance of intellectual intensity and personal respect. How wrong I was!" West lamented.
"With a few glorious and glaring exceptions, the shadow of Jim Crow was cast in its new glittering form expressed in the language of superficial diversity," he added before saying all of his courses fell under the umbrella of Afro-American Religious Studies.
After teaching at Princeton and Union Theological Seminary, West returned to Harvard as a nontenured professor in 2017.
The next stop for West is a return to Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he began his academic career in 1977.