Cornel West Leaving Harvard to Return to Union Theological Seminary!


Dear Commons Community,

The philosopher and activist Cornel West announced his resignation from Harvard Divinity School in a letter posted on Twitter on Monday, after it declined his bid for tenure.

In the letter, dated June 30, West laments the “decline and decay” at the school, and cites discrimination he describes as “the shadow of Jim Crow … expressed in the language of superficial diversity” among the reasons for his departure.

Noting “the disarray of a scattered curriculum, the disenchantment of talented yet deferential faculty, and the disorientation of precious students” at the Divinity School, West in his letter describes a botched tenure process, a heavy teaching load, and an “intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy of deep depths.”

Jonathan G. Beasley, a Divinity School spokesman, said in an email that the school had no comment on the letter.

The letter’s release comes after West announced in March that he’d be leaving Harvard, which he said had denied him tenure against the recommendation of a faculty committee. Though Harvard later offered to consider him for tenure, West told The Harvard Crimson, the fact that that reversal came only after weeks of public outcry cemented his decision to leave.

West has had a long and tumultuous history with Harvard, of which he is an alumnus. After a public dispute with Lawrence Summers, then the university’s president, West left his tenured position in Cambridge in 2002. He rejoined Harvard as a nontenured professor of the practice of public philosophy in 2017.

Now, he said in an interview with The Boycott Times in March, he’ll return to the faculty at Union Theological Seminary, where he began his teaching career, from 1977 to 1984.

Good luck, Dr. West and welcome back to New York!


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