May 25, 2012

Harvard reported Warren as Native

Filings raise more questions on Warren’s ethnic claims

By Mary CarmichaelUS Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has said she was unaware that Harvard Law School had been promoting her purported Native American heritage until she read about it in a newspaper several weeks ago.

But for at least six straight years during Warren’s tenure, Harvard University reported in federally mandated diversity statistics that it had a Native American woman in its senior ranks at the law school. According to both Harvard officials and federal guidelines, those statistics are almost always based on the way employees describe themselves.

In addition, both Harvard’s guidelines and federal regulations for the statistics lay out a specific definition of Native American that Warren does not meet.

The documents suggest for the first time that either Warren or a Harvard administrator classified her repeatedly as Native American in papers prepared for the government in a way that apparently did not adhere to federal diversity guidelines. They raise further questions about Warren’s statements that she was unaware Harvard was promoting her as Native American.
And:In 1999, Harvard started publishing its full affirmative action plan on its website in the belief that it might be considered a public document.

The report from that year lists one Native American senior professor at the entire university. A section devoted specifically to the law school also lists a single Native American senior professor, presumably the same one. Both entries specify that the professor is female.

The Harvard document defines Native American as “a person having origins in any of the original peoples of North America and who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition.” It notes that this definition is consistent with federal regulations.

It is not a definition Warren appears to fit. She has not proven she has a Native American ancestor, instead saying she based her belief on family lore, and she has no official tribal affiliation. The current executive director of Harvard’s Native American program has said she has no memory of Warren participating in any of its activities.

Harvard continued to publish its affirmative action plans online in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004. The school has analogous documents for the other years during Warren’s tenure, but has not published them online.
Comment:  It's looking more and more like Warren engaged in box-checking. It wouldn't be a crime or even a major ethics violation--more of a minor one. But still, this is the same issue as Johnny Depp or Taylor Lautner taking an acting job based on rumors of Native heritage. It's wrong in those cases and it's wrong if Warren did it too.

Warren's and Harvard's refusal to answer questions only feeds the flames. They're trying to have it both ways: "We did nothing wrong, but we won't release the data or talk about it." Anyone who takes that attitude deserves to be questioned about it.

For more on the subject, see Box-Checking Is Unethical and Did Warren Check "Native" to Get Job?


Anonymous said...

There is a part of this story that hasn't been quite fleshed out yet, although this article kind of touches on it when it discusses the phenomenon of "box checking." But the fact is, to have box checkers you have to look at the deeper issue. In other words, why do people check the box in the first place? Here is the deal: many American families pass along Indian - and, especially "Cherokee" - blood claims over generations and some modern descendants believe them wholeheartedly. So, it isn't necesssarily that they are lying. They have formed a pseudo-identity that can only be expressed by checking a box, since the family stories do not necessarily represent any real tribal affiliation or identity. Indian identity for the average "box cheker" is as simple as hearing a relative tell you about your supposed "Indian blood." That is the problem. Most of these blood myths are actually exaggerated or not true at all. Yet, for them, it is simply asserting what the family told them. They don't realize that being a Native American it is a political and cultural affiliation that runs a lot deeper than simply checking a box.

Anonymous said...

Again, even if she did, I don't think anyone would care if it weren't for her politics. It's like when Hillary said her great-great-great-great-great-grandmother was black, and her great-grandmother was Jewish. It gets to trivial points. Bill, for his part, has a great-great-great-great-grandmother who was Cherokee.

Most white people exploit such points if they can, though. If they can find an Indian in their family (usually a "princess"), they'll mention her. Why? Because they think it'll help them. But they just have to compete with over nine thousand other wannabes.