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The real ‘second-class citizens’ of academia

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At the end of February, pre-eminent Black philosopher Cornel West revealed that Harvard University has refused to consider him for tenure, triggering new discussions about inclusivity and justice in academia.

Arguing that tenure is the difference between “first-class citizenship and second-class citizenship in the academy”, West has since announced his decision to leave Harvard for the Union Theological Seminary.

West’s brilliant, four-decade-long career as a leading public intellectual and self-proclaimed “prophet of America’s present and future” has included tenure-stream and tenured professorships at Yale, Dartmouth, Princeton, and also Harvard (West left a tenured position at Harvard University in 2002 after a dispute with its then-president. He rejoined the institution in 2016). So it is understandable that he felt like a “second-class citizen” when the higher-ups in Harvard denied him tenure the second time around.

 

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