Drawing to close a long, contentious relationship between the famous Black Studies professor Cornell West and Harvard University President Lawrence Summers, The New York Times reported Saturday that Professor Cornell West will leave Harvard for Princeton. Princeton University confirmed Prof. West’s appointment to a senior position in their religion department.
For several months, Prof. West and President Summers were rumored to be at odds over President Summers’ alleged requests that Prof. West, a tenured professor, return to a more orthodox course of study. In past months, Prof. West had recorded a rap CD and supported progressive political candidates for high office.
The New York Times quoted a close associate as saying of Dr. West, “His pride is wounded. He feels he has no choice but to leave if he is to protect his honor…It’s clear there’s only one reason he’s going to Princeton. It’s Larry.”
This is a tremendous blow for Harvard University. Professor Cornell West has won the attention, if not the hearts, of Americans everywhere and will bring with him an international reputation and following. Whatever the circumstances behind his departure, it is clear President Summers will need to explain why this happened under his watch. Generations of students will be waiting for answers.