Dr. Cornel West. (306536)
Dr. Cornel West. Credit: Dr. Cornel West / Twitter

Cornel West, the eccentric professor, public intellectual and progressive activist, resigned from Harvard after a tenure dispute and accused the university of “spiritual rot” in a letter posted to his Twitter on Monday.

“How sad it is to see our beloved Harvard Divinity School in such decline and decay,” he wrote in the letter. “The disarray of a scattered curriculum, the disenchantment of talented yet deferential faculty, and the disorientation of precious students loom large.”

His resignation comes after he said Harvard denied him an opportunity to receive tenure, the indefinite academic appointment that makes it extremely difficult to remove professors.

The resignation also comes amid broader concerns about how academic institutions treat Black scholars. Earlier this year, the University of North Carolina offered a position without tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and professor, a break from tradition for that position. After facing backlash, UNC reversed its decision and offered her tenure, but the rift led Hannah-Jones to Howard University last week.

West, 68, graduated from Harvard and earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University, and he has taught at Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Union Theological Seminary over the years. This is his second departure from Harvard; in 2002 he left the school after a public dispute with Harvard’s then President Lawrence Summers but rejoined the faculty in 2017.

In his letter of resignation, West listed a series of political, institutional and personal affronts that led him to leave the university.

A new Cleveland retail development named after Madam C.J. Walker — America’s first Black woman self-made millionaire — is underway.

According to News5Cleveland and Afro Tech, the development will be located in the Hough district of the city. A portion of the space will be specifically dedicated to Black entrepreneurs in the hopes that it will entice Black businesses to grow in the area.

Kareem Abdus-Salaam of Structures Unlimited, the Maryland-based developer of the retail space, said that he modeled the development after Madam C.J. Walker, herself, and the philosophy she had throughout her life.

“She [Walker] made sure that dollar turned over in the community four to five times before it left,” he said. “Not so much a nostalgic but a way to show folks we, too, can do this renaissance again to really turn that money in our community again in modern times because we have much more money. And in terms of GDP, we should be able to do that faster and quicker to revitalize our communities instead of waiting for handouts to come from the government.”

Abdus-Salaam further confirmed that the legacy of Madam C.J. Walker will be honored with a mural featuring her contributions to history. Moreover, other prominent Black Cleveland icons will also be honored in the development, though it’s not immediately clear which icons will get the honor, and how they will be honored.

In addition to Black-owned businesses, the development will feature a community center, banking space, and a healthy grocery store.

Born Sarah Breedlove as the first in her family to be born free, Madam CJ Walker is best known for developing a line of Black hair care products that continue to be in use today. Her “Walker system” of hot combs, lotions, and scalp prep focused on the women who used them, which quickly earned her a loyal following. But she also donated extensively to charity and Black causes, and funded scholarships for women at Tuskegee Institute in addition to donating to the NAACP, the Black YMCA and dozens of other organizations.