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Cornel West, the public intellectual, activist and Ivy League professor, is taking a "significant pay cut" to leave Princeton and return to where he began his teaching career: Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York.
His new title: Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practices.
The New York Times interviewed West, 58, over the phone while he was on his way to visit Occupy protesters in Seattle. West said he was returning to Union because it is "the institutional expression of my core identity as a prophetic Christian," adding that: "I don’t have that much time, and I want to be able to do precisely what I’m called to do."
Union Theological Seminary is a prestigious divinity school serving historically as an institutional home for liberal Christian theology, in no small part due to the eminence of the faculty it maintains. Faculty member James Cone is one of the most influential voices in the articulation of black theology, including black liberation theology.
In a press release posted on the Union website, president Rev. Dr. Serene Jones had this to say:
"Union has inspired strong public voices which speak to our nation’s ills and ideals -- be they protests against war, poverty, racism, sexism, or other societal scourges…some call Cornel West this generation’s Reinhold Niebuhr (a legendary Union Professor), but I think he’s in a class by himself. Cornel is, quite simply, the leading public theologian of our age."
According to the school, West will teach a "full schedule" of classes in "Philosophy, Theology, Social Change, Community Engagement and Christian Activism."
Unlike his 2002 departure from Harvard for Princeton – a result of a dispute with then Harvard president Larry Summers – West will leave Princeton on good terms and retain an emeritus professorship, the Times explains.