Cornel West rips 'decadence' in 'market-driven universities' in Harvard resignation letter

Leading social academic and activist Cornel West shared a copy of his letter of resignation from Harvard University Monday evening, saying he sought to tell the truth about the "decadence in our market-driven universities."

West announced in March that he would be leaving Harvard University’s Divinity School and moving to the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. This move came after Harvard rejected West's request to convert his nontenured position at the university to a tenured one.

"How sad it is to see our beloved Harvard Divinity School in such decline and decay," West wrote in his June 30 letter. "The disarray of a scattered curriculum, the disenchantment of talented yet deferential faculty, and the disorientation of precious students loom large."


West wrote that despite taking a pay cut when he joined the Divinity School, he hoped that he would find "some semblance of intellectual intensity and personal respect."

"How wrong I was!" he wrote.

West pointed to his courses that were categorized under Afro-American Religious Studies despite having to do with a wide variety of subjects. He also cited poor pay increases and lack of opportunities.


"When my committee recommended a tenure review — also rejected by the Harvard administration — I knew my academic achievements and student teaching meant far less than their political prejudices," West wrote, referencing his criticisms of the Israeli government's treatment of the Palestinian people, which West claimed had a part in his tenure request being rejected.

Apart from the professional issues that he saw, West also cited a lack of personal engagement, writing that he had only received two public replies when the death of his mother was announced in a Harvard newsletter.

"This kind of narcissistic academic professionalism, cowardly deference to the anti-Palestinian prejudices of the Harvard administration, and indifference to my Mother's death constitutes an intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy of deep deaths," West added.

By Tuesday morning, "Dr. West" was trending nationally on Twitter, with thousands of online observers expressing their support for West's decision.