Dr. Cornel West has never been known to be meek, but the way he slammed Harvard University in his official resignation letter from the Ivy League’s Divinity School has the streets tipping their hat to the notable philosopher’s clap back game.
West followed through on his threat to leave Harvard earlier this year after a very public debacle in which the school denied the celebrated academic and activist tenure. Here are three 3 things to know about Cornel West’s resignation letter.
West posted a copy of his self-described “candid resignation letter” to his Dean at Harvard on Twitter on Monday, July 12; and Instagram on Tuesday, July 13. At the time of this writing it had gotten over 101,000 likes, 20,000 retweets, and over 3,500 quote tweets on Twitter; and over 28,000 likes and 941 comments on Instagram.
“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 in the caption of his social media posts. He expounded in his later stating the school was on a downward spiral across the board.
“How sad it is to see our beloved Harvard Divinity School in such decline and decay,” West wrote in the letter dated June 30. “The disarray of a scattered curriculum, the disenchantment of talented yet deferential faculty, and the disorientation of precious students loom large.”
West also stated the school overlooked him despite his qualifications due to “disgusting” Palestinian prejudices, a commitment to “superficial diversity” and practices that are “the shadow of Jim Crow.” He added his courses were all subjugated to Afro-American Religious Studies, said he received no summer salary and was given the lowest possible raise annually.
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“We all knew the mendacious reasons given had nothing to do with academic standards. … I knew my academic achievements and student teaching meant far less than their political prejudices,” West wrote.
West also called out Harvard’s lack of publicly expressed compassion when his mother died. “This kind of narcissistic academic professionalism, cowardly deference to anti-Palestinian prejudices of the Harvard administration, and indifference to my Mother’s death constitute an intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy of deep depths.
“The School has no comment on Dr. West’s letter,” Jonathan Beasley, a spokesman for the Divinity School, told The Washington Post. However, Harvard’s Student Government President Noah Harris told the Post West was the first Black teacher he’d had in his entire life and his loss was “devastating.”
“It’s really bringing to light a lot of the treatment of professors of color. … We have to do a better job as a university, as a culture,” Harris, who is Black, said. He said West wasn’t the first professor at Harvard he’d lost because they weren’t respected or given advancement opportunities they were qualified for.
“It’s just devastating to the student body every time,” Harris said, adding when it lost Dr. Cornel West, “Harvard lost one of the best professors of our generation.”