Cornel West, Victor S. Thomas Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard University, says he is again considering leaving Harvard after it denied his request for tenure, The Boston Globe reported. Harvard says that West recently completed a reappointment process to his untenured positions in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Divinity School, and that the review wasn’t about tenure. West first left a faculty position at Harvard in 2002 amid a public dispute with then-president Lawrence Summers about his scholarly and political work, including a spoken word album.
“It is once again this issue of just not putting up with being disrespected,” West told the Globe. “I wasn’t raised to put up with being disrespected or tolerate disrespect. I don’t try to negotiate respect.” West reportedly said that Harvard recently offered him an endowed chair and a 10-year contract but not tenure. Harvard is already facing criticism as to how it treats people of color, stemming from the 2019 denial of tenure to Lorgia García-Peña, a scholar of Romance languages and literatures with a strong service record and commitment to ethnic studies.
West worked at Princeton University and Union Theological Seminary in New York after leaving Harvard the first time. He remains a professor emeritus at Princeton, where he was the first full faculty appointee to the Center for African American Studies. In recent years, West has spoken out against what he and other scholars have called “campus illiberalism.” Returning to Harvard in 2017, West says he received a positive five-year review but was told that he couldn’t be considered for tenure based on the substance of his work. Harvard denies that the recent reappointment process was about tenure, but West suggested on Twitter that the reasons behind that were political: “Is Harvard a place for a free Black man like myself whose Christian faith & witness put equal value on Palestinian & Jewish babies- like all babies- & reject all occupations as immoral?”