Gates To Stay At Harvard Another Year

Despite ‘flattering’ offer, scholar has ‘deep loyalties’ to University

After intense speculation that he would abandon Harvard along with several prominent colleagues this year, DuBois Professor of the Humanities Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. said Friday he will remain in Cambridge at least one more year.

“It would be devastating to Afro-American studies to leave now,” said Gates, who chairs the department. “I want to start rebuilding the department with my friends and colleagues.”

Gates said he is still considering a standing offer from Princeton University and will make a decision about his future sometime this summer.

He called the Princeton offer “flattering” but said he maintains “deep loyalties” to Harvard. Ultimately a decision about his academic future would come down to personal questions, Gates said.

“What I have to figure out is if I can live without Anthony Appiah, and only time will tell,” he said, referring to an Afro-American studies colleague who announced earlier this year he would leave for Princeton.

The two scholars have been friends and intellectual soulmates since their days together as students at Cambridge University.

Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Alan J. Stone said Friday that Gates’ decision was welcome news to top University administrators.

“Skip Gates is a very valued member of the Faculty and of the larger Harvard community,” Stone said. “We look forward to his continuing presence at our University.”

Gates was first reported to be considering leaving Harvard in late December, when news of a clash between University President Lawrence H. Summers and Fletcher University Professor Cornel R. West ’74 hit the national press. West announced in April that he would depart Harvard for Princeton.

During the furor over the Summers-West spat, Gates, along with other top scholars in the department, was reported to be disappointed that Summers failed to begin his presidency with a strong statement in support of the department and of diversity in the larger University community.

But Gates said on Friday he was confident in Summers’ commitment to diversity and is “looking forward to working closely with the administration.”

Even as he announced his decision to stay at Harvard, Gates lauded Princeton’s African-American studies program and said it would provide formidable competition for the “dream team” of black studies scholars that assembled at Harvard over the last decade.

“Princeton, with these two appointments, in addition to the excellent faculty they already have...has overnight become a powerhouse in Afro-American studies,” Gates said.

—Staff writer Kate L. Rakoczy can be reached at rakoczy@fas.harvard.edu.