The US Department of Labor requires large employers to collect diversity statistics annually and suggests they be based on employees’ classification of themselves. In cases in which employees do not self-identify, federal regulations allow some administrators to make judgment calls on the correct categories using “employment records or observer identification.’’The linked article also recounts the history of Harvard Law's perceived diversity problem circa 1990, just before Warren arrived. Lawprof Derrick Bell had gone on "strike" (unpaid leave) to protest, some students brought a lawsuit (unsuccessful), and the U.S. Department of Labor audited what the article calls "Harvard's diversity practices" and found 10 violations. Warren arrived in 1992 (as a visiting professor), at which point she "had been listing herself for seven years as a minority in a legal directory often used by law recruiters to make diversity-friendly hires." She was still on that list when Harvard Law gave her a permanent position in 1995.
The administrator responsible for Harvard Law School’s faculty diversity statistics from 1996 to 2004, the period in question, was Alan Ray, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation who, like Warren, has fair skin, blue eyes, and Oklahoma roots.
But Ray, now president of Elmhurst College in Illinois, said in a statement that he “did not encourage the Law School to list any faculty member as one particular race or ethnicity, including Professor Warren.’’ He further said through a spokeswoman that he “never encouraged any faculty member to list himself or herself in a particular way.’’ Ray added that Harvard “always accepted whatever identification a faculty member wanted to provide,’’ a characterization another highly placed former Harvard administrator backed up.
In 1996, law school news director Mike Chmura, speaking to the Harvard Crimson, identified Warren as a Native American professor.I find it hard to believe that — after all the uproar over diversity in 1990 — that the law school could quietly pass off Warren as its "first woman of color." There were so many people who were genuinely angry over the lack of diversity. Why would they have tolerated the school making such a lame assertion? Wouldn't they have wanted to keep up the pressure? If you were at Harvard in the 1990s, what do you remember about this?
In 1997, the Fordham Law Review, citing Chmura, referred to Warren as Harvard Law’s “first woman of color.’’
The Globe article has more detail about Harvard's "affirmative action plan," a 1999 document, which "lists one Native American senior professor at the entire university," and, in a section on the law school, specifies that there is "a single Native American senior professor." This must be Warren, right? But this document also defines Native American in a way that would not include Warren: "a person having origins in any of the original peoples of North America and who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition."
The inference is that Harvard itself lied on diversity documents filed with the federal government (and posted on line for years). Note that this information is used to recruit students, some of whom may care a great deal about whether there are faculty who seem as though they will be special mentors. I wonder whether there were students who chose Harvard and sought out Warren as a mentor because of her perceived status as a Native American.
There's something very odd here. A lot of things, actually. This isn't just about whether Elizabeth Warren is a worthy candidate for the U.S. Senate. This is about more general chicanery about diversity at Harvard and even more general deception and manipulation in the politics of diversity.