The saga of hardcore socialist and Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren’s laughable claims to be part-Indian, for the purposes of accessing various academic diversity benefits, took a serious turn on Sunday when Robert Maginn, chair of the Massachusetts Republican Party (and himself a Harvard graduate) wrote the university president to demand an investigation into Warren’s apparent “academic fraud.”
Warren made a weak attempt at denying she had ever tried to pass herself off as an Indian, before modifying her excuse to say she only did it because she was lonely, and wanted to meet other people “like herself” – presumably meaning other people who might possibly have a single Cherokee great-great-great-grandmother. Which, incidentally, has not actually been established as a fact in Warren’s case, despite widespread media reports to the contrary. It’s only suspected that her great-great-great-grandma might have been Cherokee.
Warren’s tales of grandparents with high cheekbones and “family lore” were nevertheless good enough for Harvard. Maginn lays out the case for an investigation with meticulous precision:
The underlying facts in this matter are clear. For almost a decade as a law professor, from 1984 through 1995, Elizabeth Warren designated herself as a “minority” in the American Association of Law Schools (“AALS”) deskbook. This was an affirmative step on her part – and something that she has admitted doing consciously and repeatedly. Her claim was based upon her assertion of Native American ancestry. As a result, the AALS deskbook classified Ms. Warren as a “minority law professor” for nine years.
While identifying herself as a minority, Ms. Warren joined the Harvard Law School as a Robert Baucher visiting professor of law in 1992 and was appointed the Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law in 1995. At the time she became a permanent law professor, Harvard University touted Ms. Warren as the law school’s first female minority tenured professor, and identified her minority classification as Native American.
Notably, the AALS deskbook never specified which minority group Ms. Warren was claiming membership in. That is, it is clear that Harvard University’s knowledge of Ms. Warren’s claim to be a Native American did not come from the AALS deskbook.
In 1995, Ms. Warren said she de-listed herself as a minority law professor in the AALS deskbook, and since that time has not designated herself as a member of any minority group.
And the madness might still be ongoing, because as Maginn mentions, Harvard might still be listing Warren as a diversity hire, even after weeks of sustained ridicule:
Last week’s news report that Harvard may have continued to list Ms. Warren as a Native American in the Vice Provost’s 2011 official faculty diversity report – and Harvard’s unwillingness to simply confirm or deny this – makes it appear that Harvard itself is complicit in misrepresenting the true diversity of its law school faculty. (Hillary Chabot, “Harvard Won’t Say If Liz Warren Listed As Minority,” Boston Herald, May 4, 2012). Among the obvious questions that are likely to arise is did Harvard use factually inaccurate diversity data to make compensation-based decisions or to satisfy government applications for research funding.
Maginn makes it clear why the Fauxcahontas scandal is more than just an amusing illustration of leftist hypocrisy:
The Law School’s commitments to fairness, respect for the rule of law, and free inquiry require an environment of trust and mutual respect, free expression and inquiry, and a commitment to truth, excellence, and lifelong learning. Students, program participants, faculty, staff, and alumni accept these principles when they join the HLS community and thereby agree to respect the rights, dignity, and differences of others, pursue honesty and integrity in dealing with all members of the community in person and on-line, and accept personal responsibility in these efforts.
Moreover, no less than the Coalition of Bar Associations of Color last year issued a resolution stating that precisely what Ms. Warren has done – “checking a box” that one is a minority, specifically a Native American, when one is not – constitutes “academic ethnic fraud.” Indeed, their resolution stresses that academic institutions perpetuate this dishonesty by failing to enforce academic fraud policies on violators. (CBAC Resolution on Academic Ethnic Fraud, July 20, 2011.)
Such academic fraud is particularly insidious at an institution such as Harvard, which places an emphasis and dedicates enormous resources to recruiting, developing, and supporting true minority faculty. Failing a thorough investigation, Ms. Warren’s actions will make a mockery of Harvard’s eloquently expressed commitment to diversity.
With all due respect to Mr. Maginn, Elizabeth Warren already made a mockery of Harvard’s commitment to diversity. That ship sailed a long time ago. What remains is to find out whether Harvard is interested in salvaging its reputation, and producing a full account of exactly how Warren’s transparent fraud was able to slip so easily through the system for so long. There may be a substantial dollar value attached to the status Warren falsely claimed. That should be a matter of keen interest to one of America’s great schools of law.