Harvard And Dr. Cornel West Part Ways After Public Dispute Over Tenure

Dr. Cornel West has announced that he will be leaving Harvard Divinity School after a rather public dispute over tenure. West claims that the university declined to consider him for tenure despite his scholarship, accolades and positive reviews from students.

“It is once again this issue of just not putting up with being disrespected,” West told the Boston Globe.

This is not the first time that West and Harvard University have come to blows. The acclaimed scholar first left the prestigious university in 2002 after a public feud with former university president Lawrence Summers. Summers questioned West's scholarship and West questioned the university's commitment to affirmative action. While West may have come to blows with members of the administration at Harvard, his colleagues publicly applauded his work as he exited.

“He has made an enormous contribution to our curriculum and to our capacity to address issues of racial justice in the United States and around the world. We had hoped to retain him on our faculty for many years to come. We nonetheless wish him every success in his future endeavors. We will miss him very much,” David N. Hempton and David Holland of Harvard Divinity School wrote.

Having left the Ivy League institution, West will return to Union Theological Seminary where he has taught at four different times in his career. While working at the New York institution, West will teach classes regarding politics, culture, philosophy and much more.

“I am honored to return back home to Union, to a place with brilliant faculty and moral tenacity and that provides an opportunity to continue to work with students who are eager to put their faith into practice while striving for justice and truth," West wrote in a press release from the seminary.

West leaving Harvard University for Union Theological Seminary is part of larger issue that faces the institution. In recent years, multiple professors have demanded that the university look into its commitment to diversity and inclusion. In 2019, hundreds of students protested the university's decision not to extend tenure to Lorgia García Peña. Two years later, West's departure further underscores the student's desire for educators of color and the university's missteps.

“I’m both glad that he’ll be at a place that values him as he should be valued and incredibly saddened to lose a mentor of his stature and moral commitment at Harvard,” graduated student Al-Suwaidan said.

“We (doctoral students) fought for him, undergraduate and master’s students fought for him, faculty of both departments in which he’s appointed . . . fought for him — and yet none of that mattered to the people making this decision."

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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