Elizabeth Warren Update

Plenty of other bloggers are following the story of Warren’s claim of minority status, and I’ll leave it to them. But I did want to reprint the reporting below by Professor Jacobson, because it’s salient to many of the comments to my original post (and kudos to Jacobson for gathering more information than reporters from major newspapers have managed). In particular, Jacobson confirmed that Warren self-identified in the AALS faculty guide as a “minority” based on Native American status.

I spoke this afternoon with Alethea Harney, Warren’s campaign press secretary, and confirmed several key details.

Harney acknowledged that the minority status reported by Warren to AALS was Native American, and that while Warren does not remember the precise forms, she believes there was a box or other designation to be selected for Native American.

The AALS reporting was the only time Warren self-identified as Native American as far as Warren currently is aware, according to Harney, and Warren never has joined any Native American groups, or asserted any tribal memberships.

According to Harney, Warren’s Native American status did not come up in connection with her hiring by HLS, and in fact she was recruited and did not apply.

Harney said that Warren does not have any records documenting her Native American heritage, but that is being researched. Harney said that the campaign has been told that there is no good genealogical documentation with regard to tribes from Oklahoma, unlike tribes from some other areas. Harney did indicate that the tribal connection is believed to be on Warren’s grandmother’s side of the family.

Harney was unaware of whether Warren ever claimed Native American status on any college or law school applications, and would not comment on how HLS ended up listing Warren as Native American.

UPDATE: Oh, and this made me laugh out loud, for reasons having nothing to do with the “diversity” issue: “On Monday night, officials involved in her hiring at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Texas and the University of Houston Law Center all said [in statements released by the Warren campaign] that she was hired because she was an outstanding teacher, and that her lineage was either not discussed or not a factor.”

Harvard and other elite law schools are now hiring tenured faculty primarily based on teaching prowess, rather than scholarship? Expect the relevant lateral appointments committees to be inundated with c.v.s from student-selected “professors of the year” who have until now somehow escaped the top law schools’ notice.

[As Orin writes in the comments, “to a law professor familiar with academic hiring, this [being hired by an elite school based on teaching rather than scholarship] is akin to proposing that a 19-year old guy was attracted to a Victoria’s Secret model primarily because of her personality. It’s possible in theory, but not likely in reality.”]

FURTHER UPDATE: Just to be clear, the “hired for being an outstanding teacher” line is the Times’s reporter’s interpretation of what the law school officials said. Politico reprints the letters in full, and they all at least mention Warren’s scholarly ability.

And there’s an additional amusing aspect to this whole kerfuffle, which is individuals who would normally trumpet law school diversity efforts that consider “minority” status a plus for faculty hiring expressing dismay that anyone would wonder whether dubious minority status was claimed because it might be be a plus for hiring. Professor Althouse and John Rosenberg elaborate.

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