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Provocative public intellectual Cornel West featured in Steward finale

April 5, 2016

Cornel West, one of America's best-known "public intellectuals," is the featured speaker for the final installation of the 2015-16 IUPUI Steward Speakers Series. The event will take place from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, April 8, at Ivy Tech Community College, 2820 N. Meridian St. Tickets can be purchased for $15 through the Jagtag Office in the Campus Center.

Cornel West

Renowned author, philosopher and public intellectual Cornel West will visit campus April 8 as part of his appearance in the finale of the 2015-16 Steward Speakers Series.

Prior to the evening's event, West will hold a meet-and-greet with IUPUI faculty, staff, students, alumni and invited guests at 1 p.m. in the Basile Auditorium in Eskenazi Hall. He will give a brief presentation, which will be followed by a Q&A session. The program is free, but advance registration is required. Seating is limited, with reservations confirmed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Registration for the IUPUI session is being accepted online only. Confirmation emails will go out by Wednesday, April 6. Priority will be given to undergraduate and graduate student registrants as well as faculty and staff.

Not one to shy away from controversy, West has been described as an unconventional civil rights leader. An avid supporter of President Obama eight years ago, he has more recently caused raised eyebrows -- and voices -- due to his outspoken and well-publicized criticism of the president.

For example, West called Obama a "black puppet of Wall Street," arguing that those with money have a disproportionate amount of influence on Obama’s policies in comparison to that of poor and working people.

"I tend to be one who just speaks from my soul, so what comes out sometimes is rather harsh," West explained in a CBSN interview March 20. "In that sense, I'm very much a part of the tradition of a Frederick Douglass or a Malcolm X, who used hyperbolic language at times to bring attention to the state of emergency. All of that rage and righteous indignation can lead one to not speak politely sometimes."

West has earned an international reputation as a philosopher, theologian, social critic and political observer. A prolific author and widely sought-after speaker, he has reached a wide audience via books, CDs and movies.

He and Tavis Smiley were co-hosts of the popular Public Radio International show "Smiley & West," which ended in December 2013 after a three-year run. The men also co-authored "The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto." Published in 2012, the book is considered a game-changing text on economic injustice in America.

IUPUI is the title sponsor for the Steward Speakers Series, which this year focused strongly on issues such as poverty and their impact on the lives and experiences of Indianapolis communities. West is an appropriate speaker given that emphasis, said Vernon Williams, communication and engagement strategist in the Office of Community Engagement. Williams is coordinating campus involvement for this year's Steward Series.

"Cornel West is a controversial intellectual and has a lot to say about major events across the nation, particularly relating to the African-American community," Williams said. "He is a timely individual to bring to campus given the tumultuous national political climate and ongoing intense dialogue on black life in the U.S. today."

The son of a Baptist minister, West earned a bachelor's degree in education at Harvard University in 1973. In 1980, he became the first African American to graduate from Princeton University with a doctorate in philosophy.

After teaching at Harvard, West was a professor of African-American studies at Princeton before leaving the school in 2011 to become professor of philosophy and Christian practice at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

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