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Cornel West leaves Harvard, calling denial of tenure ‘the shadow of Jim Crow’

Celebrity professor Cornel West announced Monday night he would be leaving the Harvard University Divinity School, citing alleged racism, the school’s antipathy to his pro-Palestinian views, and the lack of sympathy he received from the school following his mother’s death.

In a statement released on Twitter, West announced his resignation, citing “scattered curriculum, the disenchantment of talented yet deferential faculty, and the disorientation of precious students.”

“When I arrived four year ago – with a salary less than what I received 15 years earlier and with no tenure status after being a University Professor at Harvard and Princeton – I hoped and prayed I could still end my career with some emblance of intellectual intensity and personal respect,” West wrote. “How wrong I was!”

“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 wrote.

West also said he was promised a one-year sabbatical that he never received.

West threatened to leave Harvard last February when he first learned the university had refused to grant him tenure after his return in 2017.

“It is once again this issue of just not putting up with being disrespected,” West said at the time. “It’s sad you have to go through this again,” he said. “But I wasn’t raised to put up with being disrespected or tolerate disrespect. I don’t try to negotiate respect.”

On Monday, he finally pulled the trigger, leaving the school for a second time. In 2002, he left a tenure-track position at the school, returning in 2017 to a non-tenure-track job.

West’s resignation comes shortly after journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones accused the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill of being racist for originally offering her a five-year contract to teach at the school, rather than offering her tenure. Last week, after the school’s board of trustees voted to grant her tenure, Hannah-Jones announced she would be declining the school’s offer, instead choosing to teach at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

In his resignation letter, West, now 68 years old, does not indicate what he plans to do in the future.

“This kind of narcissistic academic professionalism, cowardly deference to the anti-Palestinian prejudices of the Harvard administration, and indifference to my Mother’s death constitute an intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy of deep depths,” West wrote before concluding his letter by insisting he had “no regrets!”

MORE: Med school’s surgery department kicks off anti-racism initiative with Cornel West lecture

IMAGE: University of Buffalo/YouTube

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About the Author
Senior Reporter
Christian focuses on investigative, enterprise and analysis reporting. He is the author of "1916: The Blog" and has spent time as a political columnist at USA Today, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and National Review Online. His op-eds have been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, City Journal, Weekly Standard and National Review. He has also been a frequent guest on political television and radio shows. He holds a master’s degree in political science from Marquette University and lives in Madison, Wisconsin.