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July 13, 2021 4:39 pm

Cornel West Resigns From Harvard, Partly Blaming School’s ‘Hostility to Palestinian Cause’

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Cornel West speaking at an event at the Student Pavilion at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona//Flickr, Gage Skidmore

Activist and scholar Cornel West announced his resignation from Harvard University on Monday, blaming in part what he termed a “cowardly deference to the anti-Palestinian prejudices of the Harvard administration.”

Professor West posted his letter of resignation, dated June 30, on Twitter with a message saying, “I try to tell the unvarnished truth about the decadence in our-market driven universities!”

West held a dual appointment in the Harvard University Divinity School and Department of African and African-American Studies.

He cited several reasons for his resignation, including a denial of tenure that he has previously pinned, in part, on his pro-Palestinian activism.

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“To witness a faculty enthusiastically support a candidate for tenure then timidly defer to a rejection based on the administration’s hostility to the Palestinian cause was disgusting,” West wrote in the resignation letter. “We all knew the mendacious reasons given had nothing to do with academic standards.”

He also alleged being denied sabbatical, said that his courses were unfairly categorized as Black studies, and charged his colleagues with being cowed into not offering condolences after the death of his mother Irene B. West — a former civil rights activist and the first Black public school teacher in Elk Grove, California.

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

In February, West alleged that Harvard’s rejection of his request for tenure was partly caused by his criticism of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians. That was followed by a petition from supporters of West echoing those claims, which Harvard Hillel Rabbi Jonah C. Steinberg charged with promoting “an anti-Jewish conspiracy theory.”

West reiterated his suggestion to the Harvard Crimson, saying, “I do think the support of this critique of Israeli occupation is a plausible hypothesis” for the tenure denial.

In March, West announced that he would rejoin the Union Theological Seminary as a faculty member.

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