A reporter from the student-run Hofstra Chronicle newspaper stood to ask a question of Dr. Cornel West, the intellectual provocateur, New York Times bestselling author, and Ivy League African-American studies and philosophy professor best known for his defense of America’s poor. The young woman said she had recently conducted an informal survey in which 6 of 10 Hofstra students said they did not believe poverty was a relevant issue for them as college students this election season.
Dressed in a black three-piece suit, West snapped back with his characteristic wit and a wide smile. “They have a right to be wrong,” he said, noting that the students might find poverty to be an increasingly relevant issue if they are unable to find jobs after graduation, and saying that a Hofstra education should –– and likely would –– open their eyes to America's poor.
West came to Hofstra on Oct. 3 to offer a an hour-and-a-half address before a packed audience at the John Cranford Adams Playhouse in which he skewered “corporate media,” which he charged are ignoring the plight of the poor. West’s speech, full of pop-culture references and incisive humor, was one in a long line of speaking events that Hofstra is hosting leading up to the presidential debate on Oct. 16, which CNN anchor Candy Crowley will moderate.
West appeared at Hofstra only hours before the first presidential debate at the University of Denver, hosted by “PBS NewsHour” anchor Jim Lehrer, and stayed to watch it with Hofstra students and faculty members.
Before West spoke, he met with a cadre of student reporters from the Chronicle; Long Island Report, Hofstra’s web-based publication; and WRHU 88.7, its radio station, in a half-hour news conference at Axinn Library. It was one of many opportunities that Hofstra’s student journalists are getting to hone their reporting skills amid the hotly contested presidential race pitting Democratic incumbent Barack Obama against Republican challenger Mitt Romney.