Cornel West, one of the nation’s most prominent and outspoken public intellectuals, is leaving Princeton University to return to the institution where he began his career.
West will be returning to the Union Theological Seminary In the City Of New York, which is one of the premier theological institutions in the country. He has headed up Princeton’s African-American studies department since 2002.
West arrived at Princeton after a stint at Harvard that ended when he and Harvard’s then-president, Lawrence Summers, clashed over West’s workload. Summers, who served as Secretary of the Treasury under President Bill Clinton and was later a top adviser to President Obama, accused West of not attending to his duties as a Harvard University Professor, a title reserved for the university’s most distinguished academics, in order to be a celebrity. (West had released a hip-hop CD, and would later go on to appear in both sequels of The Matrix.) The feud would become very public, and West continued to criticize Summers even after he decamped for Princeton.
West has been in the news recently for the "poverty tour” that he conducted with the talk show host Tavis Smiley, which was meant to bring attention to the plight of poor people during the recession. The pair have been strident critics of President Obama. "Most black people fell in love with the symbolism of Obama, a black man in the White House,” West told Huffington Post BlackVoices in August. "I know I did too. I like having a black man and a black woman and precious black kids in the White House. But black people are not in love with policies that are tied to the rich and well-to-do."
West also notably criticized President Obama for appointing Summers as an economic adviser.