US philosopher and political activist Cornel West has announced his resignation from Harvard’s Divinity School, citing “spiritual rot” and “deference to anti-Palestinian prejudices” in the oldest American university.
The 68-year-old scholar, in a resignation letter dated June 30 and posted to Twitter, suggested that discrimination at the university drove him to leave the Divinity School.
West said politics was a factor in Harvard’s decision not to extend his tenure, adding that his outspoken support for the Palestinian cause had been behind the move.
“How sad it is to see our beloved Harvard Divinity School in such decline and decay,” said West, one of the United States’ foremost Black scholars and an outspoken progressive activist. “The disarray of a scattered curriculum, the disenchantment of talented yet deferential faculty, and the disorientation of precious students loom large.”
West said Harvard has become “market-driven. Let us bear witness against this spiritual rot!” he tweeted.
This is my candid letter of resignation to my Harvard Dean. I try to tell the unvarnished truth about the decadence in our market-driven universities! Let us bear witness against this spiritual rot! pic.twitter.com/hCLAuNSWDu— Cornel West (@CornelWest) July 13, 2021
In the letter, West said, “To witness a faculty enthusiastically support a candidate for tenure then timidly defer to a rejection based on the Harvard administration’s hostility to the Palestinian cause was disgusting.”
“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,” he said.
In February, West said that he was certain his criticism of Israel was one of the principal reasons for him being denied tenure at Harvard.
He said on the TightRope podcast that speaking about Israel’s occupation of Palestine “is a taboo issue among certain circles in high places.”
According to the Harvard Crimson daily student newspaper, the university has invested nearly $200 million in companies “tied to the Israeli occupation of Palestine” and supported the Tel Aviv regime’s policies of land expropriation in the occupied Palestinian territories.
In March, West announced that he was returning to the Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he first taught more than four decades earlier.
“I am honored to return back home to Union, to a place with brilliant faculty and moral tenacity and that provides an opportunity to continue to work with students who are eager to put their faith into practice while striving for justice and seeking of truth,” he said at the time.