Decision to Stay at Harvard Is ‘Final,’ Gates Says
Dr. Henry Louis Gates put an end to a widely watched academic tug of war last month, officially announcing he would remain as head of Harvard University’s Afro-American studies department rather than follow two prominent colleagues to Princeton.
“This is for good,” Gates told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “It’s to rest. It’s final.”
Harvard professors Dr. Cornel West and Dr. Kwame Anthony Appiah were lured away by Princeton earlier this year. West left after a dispute with new Harvard President Lawrence Summers.
Gates said he had talked extensively with Summers since West’s departure.
“We’ve been talking heart to heart,” Gates says. “We’ve developed a warm working relationship. It’s very candid, very open, very frank, and I’m absolutely persuaded that he sees Afro-American studies as fundamental to the intellectual life of a great university.”
In a statement, Summers said he was “delighted” with the decision.
Gates previously had said he would not leave for Princeton this academic year, but had not ruled out the move altogether. His plans had been the subject of widespread speculation among observers who wondered whether Princeton would lure away the entire Black studies “dream team” Harvard had put together during the 1990s.
“It was very tempting to join Anthony Appiah and Cornel West,” Gates says. “They’re my two best friends in the academy and they’re two great scholars, and Princeton now has virtually overnight become one of the … great centers of African American studies.”
But, he said, the Harvard department was in transition.
“It would be irresponsible of me to leave at this time,” he says. “I’m very concerned with protecting the great legacy that Cornel West and Anthony Appiah and our colleagues built.”
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