A Letter to Skip Gates

The loss of such a renowned scholar would be a devastating blow to the University

Harvard is greater than any one person. Nevertheless, there are certain people whose scholarship, leadership and gravitas make the academic community immeasurably richer by their presence. DuBois Professor of the Humanities Henry Louis “Skip” Gates is one of those people. Gates has been a leader both for the Department of Afro-American Studies and for the undergraduates whom he has mentored. His interaction with students has often been at the personal level, and here we address him directly in the hopes that, when he decides in early December which path his academic future will take, he will choose to remain in Cambridge.

Professor Gates, we have heard that you are considering leaving Harvard. Princeton has made you a standing offer and your colleagues say you have looked for houses in New Jersey and New York. We understand that you would like to be closer to former Carswell Professor of Philosophy K. Anthony Appiah, who left for Princeton last year. We know that you have been distressed as Appiah and former Fletcher University Professor Cornel R. West ’74 have decamped to New Jersey.

Nevertheless, your students need you here. The Department of Afro-American Studies has been your masterwork at Harvard, and it would be seriously damaged if you left. Your scholarship has been an inspiration both to your students and your colleagues. The work you have done for the last decade in bringing the best scholars from across the country to Harvard is truly amazing.

Moreover, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences has very few professors of color. The departure of someone who has done so much to make students of color feel at home and advance the academic study of black culture would be a significant blow to the communities here who look to you for leadership and inspiration. You are in a prime position to recruit more scholars to your department. Your presence on campus is a major draw for many students considering coming to Harvard.

We know that University administrators have been showing their support and urging you to stay. We hope that University President Lawrence H. Summers publicly demonstrates his desire to keep you at Harvard. He should not hesitate to offer the Department of Afro-American Studies the resources it needs to grow and thrive.

The Crimson Staff hope that you stay at Harvard. Our community would be much poorer without you.