Jul 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Cornel West resigns from Harvard, says institution is in "decline and decay"

Cornel West speaks at the 2019 Hutchins Center Honors W.E.B. Du Bois Medal Ceremony at Harvard University.

Photo: Paul Marotta/Getty Images

Cornel West, a prominent Black philosopher and activist, announced Monday that he has resigned from his position at Harvard University’s Divinity School, citing a tenure dispute and saying the institution is in "decline and decay."

Why it matters: The 68-year-old's resignation comes amid a broader discussion about the treatment of Black scholars at universities, after Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones rejected a position at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, following her own tenure controversy.

The big picture: West's departure comes after Harvard initially denied a request to give him tenure earlier this year. West later told the Harvard Crimson it reversed its decision after facing public criticism.

What they're saying: “How sad it is to see our beloved Harvard Divinity School in such decline and decay,” West wrote in his letter of resignation.

  • “The disarray of a scattered curriculum, the disenchantment of talented yet deferential faculty, and the disorientation of precious students loom large," he continued.
  • "When my committee recommended a tenure review — also rejected by the Harvard administration — I knew my academic achievements and student teaching meant far less than their political prejudices."
  • West also implied that the university initially denied him a tenured position because of his support for Palestine.

Harvard did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Go deeper: Creator of 1619 Project rejects UNC position, joins Howard after tenure controversy

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