Civil rights activist Cornel West resigns from Harvard

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Famed civil rights activist Cornel West announced he is leaving his post at Harvard University’s Divinity School in a scathing resignation letter — accusing the institution of “spiritual rot” and describing it as in a state of “decay and decline.”

In a letter shared to Twitter on Monday night, the professor of African American studies said he had taken an untenured position four years ago with the hope that he could “still end his career with some semblance of intellectual intensity and personal respect.”

“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,” wrote West, 68.

West — who had previously been a tenured Harvard professor before he quit in 2002 — said it had become disheartening to see the institution in a state of “decline and decay.”

“The disarray of a scattered curriculum, the disenchantment of talented yet deferential faculty, and the disorientation of precious students loom large,” he wrote.

The prominent black philosopher also said he received the “lowest increase possible” to his salary every year since he returned to campus.

When he was recommended for a tenure review, the university rejected it over his support of Palestine, he said.

“… To witness a faculty enthusiastically support a candidate for tenure then timidly defer to a rejection based on the Harvard administration’s hostility to the Palestinian cause was disgusting,” he said. “We all know the mendacious reasons given had nothing to do with academic standards.”

He then lamented a lack of personal engagement and empathy from colleagues outside of work and academia, including how he only received two replies to news of his mother’s death in a newsletter.

“This kind of narcissistic academic professionalism, cowardly deference to the anti-Palestinian prejudices of the Harvard administration, and indifference to my Mother’s death constitutes an intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy of deep deaths,” West said.

West said he was resigning with “precious memories but absolutely no regrets.”

“I try to tell the unvarnished truth about the decadence in our market-driven universities! Let us bear witness against this spiritual rot!” West wrote on Twitter.

Harvard University on Tuesday declined to comment on the resignation letter.


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