cornel west

Cornel West as a visiting professor in 2017 at Dartmouth University discussing an idea from W.E.B. Du Bois' "The Souls of Black Folk" with students.

Academic and progressive activist, Cornel West, resigned from Harvard after a tenure dispute and accused the university of "spiritual rot" in a letter posted to his Twitter page 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 tenure, the lifetime appointment that makes it extremely difficult to remove professors.

The resignation also comes amid broader concerns about how academic institutions treat Black scholars, particularly after the recent tenure controversy surounding Nikole Hannah-Jones.

West, 68, graduated from Harvard and earned a PhD in philosophy from Princeton University. He has taught at Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Union Theological Seminary. This is his second departure from Harvard; in 2002 he left the school after a public dispute with then president Lawrence Summers, but came back in 2017.

In his letter of resignation, West listed a series of political, institutional and personal affronts that led him to leave the university and accused the university of denying him tenure because of his support for Palestinians.

West said he returned to Harvard after a stint at Princeton hoping to end his career "with some semblance of intellectual intensity and personal respect."

"How wrong I was!" he said, writing "the shadow of Jim Crow" persists in the form of "superficial diversity."

In March, West and the Union Theological Seminary in New York City announced he would be rejoining Union as faculty.

At the time, West said: "I am honored to return back home to Union, to a place with brilliant faculty and moral tenacity and that provides an opportunity to continue to work with students who are eager to put their faith into practice while striving for justice and seeking of truth."