Writer and racial justice activist Cornel West said Harvard University rejected his application for a post, calling the school’s decision “political” in tweets posted early Friday morning.
“After being tenured at Yale, Harvard, Princeton & Union Theological Seminary, Harvard’s recent rejection of an tenure process strikes me as a political decision that I reject,” the prominent social critic tweeted.
West, a practicing professor of public philosophy, with a joint appointment between Harvard Divinity School and the Department of African and African American Studies, also suggested in a previous tweet that the school’s decision was influenced by its open criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
“Nothing stands in the way of my deep love and solidarity with the oppressed people wherever they are !!” he added.
West has indicated that he has considered leaving the Ivy League school because of the situation, according to the Boston Globe, which first reported on his tenure track status.
“It’s again this question of not putting up with disrespect,” he told the newspaper. (West left a permanent job at Harvard to teach at Princeton in 2002 after facing off against Harvard President Lawrence Summers.)
West, who returned to Harvard in 2017, told The Globe he recently applied to be considered for the incumbency process after a positive review.
“What I’m told is it’s too risky,” West said. “And these are quotes. It’s too heavy. And I’m too controversial.
Harvard spokesman Jonathan Swain referred HuffPost to Globe reports about his statements regarding the process West went through:
Harvard spokesman Jonathan Swain said he could not comment on the details of the university’s offer to West, but gave details of the process he recently went through.
“Following normal procedures, a faculty committee of the two schools West is affiliated with recently recommended his renewal to his current degree, a decision approved by the deans of both schools and the university principal,” Swain said. West has been notified and the university is hoping he accepts, he said.
“West was also recently appointed to the Victor S. Thomas Chair of Public Philosophy, an endowed chair position, at Harvard Divinity School,” the university said.
Swain also told the publication that the faculty committee that was responsible for reviewing his reappointment does not have the authority to conduct a tenure review.
Black professors, activists and public figures on Twitter responded to the news of West’s denial of tenure, saying it illustrates how black academics often experience racial discrimination when working in white institutions.
“It’s a reminder that people will always find a way to try and demean black academics,” historian and University of Pittsburgh Associate Professor Keisha N. Blain tweeted in part. “Establishment and promotion are weapons that schools use against us.”
Melissa Harris-Perry, professor at Wake Forest University, in a Twitter post on Friday, called West “a pioneering public intellectual deserving of a tenure at any American university.”
Harvard came under fire during its tenure process in December 2019, when ethnic and Latinx studies researcher Lorgia García Peña, who is an Afro-Latina from the Dominican Republic, was denied tenure. A coalition of graduate students and academics sent a letter to the university condemning the ruling at the time.
“Refusing the tenure of a faculty member of color who actively sits on the Ethnic Studies New Recruit Committee undermines Harvard’s commitment and betrays efforts to advance diversity and inclusion at this institution,” reads. we partly in the letter.
Peña addressed the West’s tenure status controversy on Twitter on Friday.
“So Harvard doesn’t think @CornelWest deserves a tenure,” she said. wrote. “I feel flattered to be in such good company. I send you love, my brother.
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