Campus Reform | Cornel West claims Harvard University 'disrespected' him by denying him tenure

Cornel West claims Harvard University 'disrespected' him by denying him tenure

Harvard University Professor Cornel West says he was denied consideration for tenure at the Ivy League school.

West claimed that in doing so, Harvard "disrespected" him.

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Harvard University Professor Cornel West has threatened to leave the school after it "disrespected" him by denying him consideration for tenure.

On Friday, West tweeted

"Is Harvard a place for a free Black man like myself whose Christian faith & witness put equal value on Palestinian & Jewish babies- like all babies- & reject all occupations as immoral? After being tenured at Yale, Harvard, Princeton & Union Theological Seminary, the recent Harvard denial of a tenure process strikes me as a political decision I reject. Nothing stands in the way of my profound love for & solidarity with oppressed peoples wherever they are!!"

Speaking to the Boston Globe about his threat to leave, West said, “I wasn’t raised to put up with being disrespected...I don’t try to negotiate respect.” 

According to the Globe, Harvard instead offered West an endowed chair position, a 10-year contract, and a pay raise, which he turned down. 

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Harvard University’s 2020-2021 Annual Report on Faculty Development and Diversity shows that 37 percent of tenure-track faculty are people of color (Harvard separates this group into Asians and underrepresented minorities). 

West, who has repeatedly advocated for democratic socialism, has made no secret of his political views. In 2019, he urged the school to “disinvest in terms of its complicity with the Israeli occupation of Palestine” at an on-campus “Justice for Palestine” event, per the Harvard Crimson

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Should West resign, it would not be the first time he has left Harvard in protest. 

He walked away in 2002 over public disagreements with the school’s then-president, Lawrence Summers. Writing in The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education three years later, West claimed Summers tried to recruit him to help “f*** up” a conservative professor. 

West says he refused, citing his respect for that professor and positive working relationship with her. West also notes Summers’ opposition to his living wage campaign and his statement that the benefits of affirmative action were still unproven. 

Neither Harvard nor West responded to a request for comment in time for publication. 

Follow the writer on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito