Cornel West Returning to Harvard Faculty - Higher Education
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Cornel West Returning to Harvard Faculty

by Jamal Eric Watson

Dr. Cornel West—arguably one of the nation’s most visible Black public intellectuals—will rejoin the faculty of Harvard University, where he will hold a distinguished joint appointment in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies and the Harvard Divinity School.

West, who abruptly left Harvard University in 2002 after a public spat with then president Lawrence Summers who questioned his scholarship and visibility on campus, retreated to Princeton University where he earned his Ph.D. in philosophy and taught on the faculty for many years. He retired from Princeton in 2012 and joined Union Theological Seminary in New York but has since retired from that institution as well and holds the title of professor emeritus at both institutions.

West, 63, could not be reached for comment, but several sources said that he is expected to begin his post next fall. They said that Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., a professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard, was largely responsible for helping to negotiate the deal to bring West back to campus.

In the 1990s, Gates boldly declared that he was building the “dream team” of Black scholars that included West, William Julius Wilson, Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham , K. Anthony Appiah and others. Like West, Appiah—a philosopher—eventually left Harvard to teach at Princeton and is now on the faculty at New York University.

West, who has been critical of President Obama and was an ardent supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders and later campaigned for Jill Stein in this year’s presidential campaign, appeared to make amends with Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, his one-time protégé who penned a lengthy, critical  essay in the New Republic last year praising West as “the most exciting black American scholar ever” but who also noted that his one-time mentor had also suffered from a “pronounced and decades-long scholarly decline.”

Over the weekend, Dyson and West appeared together at a panel marking the 10th anniversary of Dr. Obery Hendricks’ classic text “The Politics of Jesus.”

Jamal Eric Watson can be reached at jwatson1@diverseeducation.com You can follow him on Twitter @jamalericwatson

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