Will West stay or will he go?: Clueless Harvard Administrators Pt. 1
Even if you have no personal experience with Harvard (lucky you) you might have heard about the widely publicized conflict between Harvard President Larry Summers and distinguished Afro-American Studies professor Cornel West. To briefly sum up a big long mess, this past fall Summers reportedly called West into his office to berate him for behavior Summers felt was beneath Harvardian dignity: specifically, recording a spoken word CD and writing books more likely to be reviewed in The New York Times than scholarly journals. (This of course is based on the ridiculous assumption that if a book is clearly written enough to appeal to a general audience, it must somehow be inferior to an obscure tome that appeals only to other academics.) West justifiably took offense—and an immediate leave of medical absence (he has cancer). Princeton smelled an opportunity and began a campaign to recruit West and other Afro-Am noteables. So far, they've managed to attract K. Anthony Appiah (noted scholar on the philosophy of race and sexuality and editor of the Encyclopedia Africana).
At any rate, Monday was supposed to be the day of West's big decision: stay at Harvard, or return to Princeton. 1,200 of us concerned students and faculty signed a petition begging him to remain, but as yet, no news. Basically, I don't blame him if he leaves, but colleges in general could use more profs like West who (1) are really brilliant (2) care about students and know how to educate and entertain simultaneously (3) have higher priorities than being reviewed in academic journals (though incidentally, West is one of the most frequently cited Harvard professors). But for now I'll just have to leave you in suspense with this fun photo I took of Cornel with Jesse Jackson at a lecture for Introduction to Afro-American Studies.