Seduced by Princeton
Princeton has finally snagged Harvard African-American Studies professor
Cornel West, and is struggling mightily not to gloat too much over the
coup. The gain of Princeton's African-American Studies department is great,
especially when combined with the hiring of Bowdoin's own Eddie Glaude.
They will absorb two well-known scholars and enjoy a boost of credibility
in the field. They will also absorb, in West's case, an ego so massive
and at the same time so fragile that even the tiniest slights may cause
Last week, after months of whispering sweet nothings in West's ear, Princeton
finally hired him-reportedly for just as much, or even less, money than
Harvard is forking over. West was eager to jump ship, and after recent
interviews with The New York Times and NPR, we know why: Harvard president
Lawrence Summers didn't send him a Hallmark card fast enough after his
prostrate surgery. Oh, and Summers only apologized personally to West
three times after "daring" to criticize his job performance.
West called Summers "the Ariel Sharon of higher education,"
saying that his employment situation was "very delicate and dangerous"-a
fact he said Summers did not appreciate.
West's metaphor is ridiculously overblown. It takes a remarkable persecution
complex for a high-flying professor-one of Harvard's 16 elite 'university
professors', in fact-to align himself with Palestinians huddled in the
bulldozed concrete rubble of Jenin at a time like this.
For a scholar in a field that studies the horrors of slavery and the devastation of racism and poverty, West's whining about what pushed him from one cushy job to another is indefensible. Harvard should tell him good riddance; Princeton had better start planning West's honorary dinners now-maybe even a parade-if they want to keep him happy.