Cornell West’s Resignation Letter

June 30, 2021:

I hope and pray you and your family are well ! This summer is a scorcher’ Here is my brief and candid letter of resignation: “How sad it is to see our beloved Harvard Divinity School in such decline and decay. The disarray of a scattered curriculum, the disenchantment of a talented yet deferential faculty, and the disorientation of precious students loom large. When I arrived four years ago- with a salary less than what I received 15 years earlier and with no tenure status after being a University Professor a( Harvard and Princeton – I hoped and prayed I could still end my 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: all my courses were subsumed under Afro-American Religious Studies, including those on Existentialism.

American Democracy and The Conduct of Life. no possible summer salary alongside the lowest increase possible every year. Yet I delivered two convocation addresses and one commencemenl speech in four years. I was promised a year sabbalical but could only lake one semester in practice. And to witness a faculty enthusiastically support a candidate for tenure then timidly defer to a rejection based on the Harvaid administration’s hostility to the Palestinian cause was disgusting. We all knew the mendacious reasons given had nothing to do with academic standards. When my committee recommended a tenure review – also rejected by the Harvard adminutration – I knew my academic achievements and student teaching meant far less than their political prejudices. Even my good friends in the Afro-American and African Studies Department were paralyzed, given their close relations to the administration. And after teaching extra courses. including five courses in one year, this silence continued. When the announcement of the death of my beloved Mother appeared in the regular newsletter, I received two public replies (just as that of my colleague Dr. Jacqueline Olga Cooke-Rivers who received none when her blessed Mother died). Any ordinary announcement about a lecture, award or professional advancement receives about twenty replies. 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. In my case, a serious commitment to Veritas requires resignation – with precious memories but absolutely no regrets.