There are good reasons to criticize Harvard’s Divinity School and to want no longer to be part of it. They are the same reasons not to have wanted to be associated with it in the first place. The school is a bastion of leftism and identity politics, and has been for decades. I’m told that its relationship to divinity is tenuous.
West’s reason for resigning is more personal, though. He objects to having been denied tenure and thinks he is underpaid.
These are legitimate reasons for quitting a job. However, they do not support his criticism that the school is in “decline and decay” and suffering from “spiritual rot.”
West’s resignation letter doesn’t make clear what his basis for this criticism is. His statements that university has become “market driven” and that the curriculum at Harvard’s Divinity is “scattered” and in “disarray” are suggestive, but vague. And his unsupported reference to “the shadow of Jim Crow” lurking at Harvard is worthy of Joe Biden — in other words, absurd.
West is a hardcore radical. However, unlike so many on the left, he has supported free expression on campus and criticized the “cancel culture.” His resignation letter doesn’t allude to these problems, though.
As I said, there are good reasons to blast the Divinity School, but West doesn’t really make the case.
West attributes what he considers Harvard’s mistreatment of him to his support for Palestine. Apparently, he has in mind the trustees’ investment in companies that operate on the West Bank.
Absent evidence of a pattern at Harvard of denying tenure to professors who are pro-Palestinian, it’s difficult to take West’s claim seriously. I very much doubt that such evidence exists.
West left Harvard in 2002 after then-president Larry Sommers criticized him for missing too many classes, contributing to grade inflation, and neglecting serious scholarship in favor of economically profitable projects. It’s possible that West was denied tenure this time due to one or more of these problems.
These days, West seems more like a showman than a serious scholar. Nonetheless, I suspect he was more of an asset to Harvard and its divinity students than the average tenured professor at the Divinity School.