Renowned scholar and activist Cornel West threw deuces at Harvard University and is heading back to his “perennial home” Union Theological Seminary.
“I am blessed to announce with my dear brother Mordecai Lyon of The Boycott Times that I am moving from Harvard to Union Theological Seminary in New York City! Our struggle for truth & justice continues with style & smiles!” West tweeted on Monday, March 8, along with a link to an article that gave more details on his decision.
With the move, West followed through on his threat to leave the university (again) after his request to be considered for tenure was denied. Both academics and laypeople alike found it shocking the Ivy League institution wouldn’t grant tenure to a scholar of West’s caliber.
West himself said he “wasn’t raised to put up with being disrespected or tolerate disrespect. I don’t try to negotiate respect.” He added he believed Harvard thought him “too risky,” “too fraught” and “too controversial” to give him tenure. He refused to tolerate it, stating “If I cannot be put up for tenure, then it is clear they don’t think I’m worthy of tenure. And I will go.”
An avid supporter of the Palestinian cause and unapologetic advocate of oppressed people, West said Harvard was uncomfortable with him being so outspoken on taboo subjects. He called the institution’s historical whiteness, and that of others like Wall Street and Silicon Valley, “Jim Crow, new style.”
“Now, it is true that I’ve always felt there are certain taboo issues at Harvard. And we got to hit taboo issues across the board. One of them is the Palestinian cause, wrestling with a serious moral spiritual political critique of the Israeli occupation,” Cornel West told The Boycott Times.
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Union Theological Seminary President Dr. Serene Jones is thrilled to have West come back to the institution he first worked at when he was 23 yearsold, then again several times over the years. She said the scholar and “our whole school is devoted to the same prophetic message.”
She also noted, obtaining tenure would nor be a problem at all for West. ““If you could give three times, four times tenure, he would come with quadruple tenure,” Jones told the New York Times.
In an interview with Truthout, West said he hopes his leaving Harvard would set an example for young Black people to follow in commanding respect.
“So, I would hope that my example, given all of my privileges and all of my blessings, will communicate the message that young people should be fortified. Don’t be disrespected. We come from a great people,” West said. “Black people are a world historical people whose gifts have disproportionately shaped the cultures of the world. And there’s just no doubt about that, so you’ve got to be true to that, and you are true to that with your humility and your tenacity. And you have to be willing to speak the truth — to the powerful and the powerless.”