Dr. Cornel West Leaves Harvard for Union Theological Seminary

Dr. Cornel West, author and philosopher, has left his post at Harvard amid claims he was denied his request for tenure. Dr. West, who completed his undergraduate degree at the renowned institution, taught at Harvard for years before leaving in 2002, then returning in 2017.

Dr. West spoke candidly about his experience in an interview with The Boycott Times. Of his decision to return to Union Theological Seminary in New York City, Dr. West stated, “I don’t have to be worked like a mule but underpaid and undervalued at Harvard. Those days are over.”

According to Dr. West, little has changed at Harvard

Dr. West had some kinder words for his mentors at Harvard and the students and graduate students he has educated. When Dr. West returned to Harvard in 2017, following a 2002 dispute with Harvard’s president that led to West’s departure, he hoped for a changed culture at the elite academic institution. However, over the last four years, Dr. West did not find what he was looking for. 

 

Referring to Harvard as “highly commodified and bureaucratized,” Dr. Cornel West repeated the claim that Harvard did not support him, refusing to consider tenure for his position, despite a recommendation from a faculty examination committee. Following up, Dr. West noted, “I can only take so much pettiness in terms of ways in which I thought I was disrespected and devalued.” 

Returning to his roots

It is not an experience he is likely to feel at Union Theology Seminary, where Dr. West first taught over four decades ago. Dr. West will teach “a range of subjects in philosophy, politics, cultural theory and literature” at the radical social justice-focused seminary that attracts students from all religious practices and backgrounds. Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, the president of Union Theological Seminary, expressed enthusiasm at Dr. West’s return, stating, “our whole school is devoted to the same message” as Dr. West.

Dr. West’s new position is effective in July, and he will have tenure. In an interview, Rev. Dr. Jones confirmed Dr. West’s new appointment, stating,  “If you could give three times, four times tenure, he would come with quadruple tenure.” 

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