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Troubling obstacle in Cornel West’s path at Harvard

Cornel West speaks on March 6, 2020, at a campaign rally in Detroit for Bernie Sanders during the Vermont senator's run for president in the Democratic primary.
Cornel West speaks on March 6, 2020, at a campaign rally in Detroit for Bernie Sanders during the Vermont senator's run for president in the Democratic primary.Paul Sancya/Associated Press

University is essentially offering second-class citizenship

After months of denial, I took my first pill for high blood pressure about a week ago. The next morning, I awoke to the article about Cornel West (”West threatens to leave Harvard again after denial on tenure,” Page A1, Feb. 19).

The crux of the matter is the archaic process by which tenure — making one a permanent member of the Harvard faculty — is conferred. By not offering a clear path to tenure to one of its top Black professors, Harvard is essentially offering second-class citizenship. It’s about respect.

Harvard is not alone in these tenure shenanigans, but it is certainly guilty as sin in perpetuating the kind of systematic racism inherent in the old boy network. Anyone who has heard West lecture knows he is one of the most brilliant scholars of our time. W.E.B Dubois was the first Black person to receive a doctoral degree from Harvard, in 1895. He went on to be a professor somewhere else.

It’s Black History Month. Our blood boils.


David Dance


The writer is a 1974 graduate of Harvard.

How could Harvard fail to see West as a candidate for tenure?

To learn that Harvard’s administration has declined Cornel West’s request for tenure brings further lament to an already sorrowful historical period.

I am the same age as West, and I have been an academic my entire professional life. I have witnessed positive tenure decisions for those with a fraction of the accomplishments West has amassed. In fact, I doubt there is an academic in the country — outside of Cambridge — who could be a better candidate for tenure than West. From his scholarship to his teaching to his service to the academic and civic communities, he epitomizes what the American Association of University Professors sets forth as thresholds for tenure.


I have always tried to honor the AAUP’s mandate about making bona fide professional judgments when deciding matters like tenure. To deny West the opportunity to be considered for tenure is a failure on Harvard’s part to honor its commitment to the professorate.

As Dante refers to the poet Arnaut Daniel, and as T. S. Eliot later offered about Ezra Pound, West is “il miglior fabbro,” the better craftsman who fashions good people speaking well — public intellectuals — in a world that desperately needs such citizens.

Let’s hope Harvard comes to its senses soon.

Albert C. DeCiccio


The writer is the coordinator of the Mary G. Walsh Writing Center and a professor of English at Salem State University.

School is not hearing the cry for more voices

Harvard’s refusal to grant Cornel West tenure is a slap in the face to Black scholars and just another slap on the back to white patriarchal culture. Our society benefits from various points of view. However, we cannot gain access to these various points of view if professors of color are denied a seat at the table. It would be wonderful if Harvard could lead us in hearing more voices rather than silencing the voices who want to be heard.

Carol Szymanski

Old Wethersfield, Conn.