Cornel West Says Harvard Denied Him Tenure Because He's 'Too Controversial'

Political activist and philosopher Cornel West says Harvard denied him consideration for tenure. "It’s too fraught," he said. "And I’m too controversial.”

cornel west harvard

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cornel west harvard

During Black History Month, Harvard denied Cornel West, living icon of Black history, consideration for tenure, according to tweets from the political activist and philosopher. 

“After being tenured at Yale, Harvard, Princeton & Union Theological Seminary, the recent Harvard denial of a tenure process strikes me as a political decision I reject,” he tweeted on Friday. “Nothing stands in the way of my profound love for & solidarity with oppressed peoples wherever they are!!” 

West suggested Harvard’s decision is related to his support for Palestinian liberation and criticism of Israeli occupation. 

“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?” he wrote. 

“It is once again this issue of just not putting up with being disrespected,” he told the newspaper. He returned to Harvard in 2017 after leaving in 2002 to teach at Princeton. West asked to be considered for a tenure process after a positive review. 

“What I’m told is it’s too risky,” West said. “And these are quotes. It’s too fraught. And I’m too controversial.”

In response to West’s tweets, Black professors and others expressed solidarity and identified with the struggle of racial discrimination within primarily white academic institutions. 

“It’s a reminder that folks will always find a way to try to demean Black scholars,” historian and University of Pittsburgh associate professor Keisha N. Blain tweeted. “Tenure and promotion are weapons schools use against us.”

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