In a letter to University President Drew G. Faust on Sunday, Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Robert A. Maginn Jr. alleged that Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren may have committed academic fraud, claiming that the U.S. Senate candidate may have intentionally deceived the University into believing that she is Native American.
Writing as an alumnus and a donor, Maginn requested that the University investigate Warren’s claim to minority status and determine whether she ever labeled herself as Native American in Harvard’s hiring process.
“By Harvard’s own Code and precedent, Ms. Warren’s actions require an investigation, and if necessary, disciplinary action,” wrote Maginn, who earned a master’s degree in liberal arts and an MBA at Harvard. ”Not doing so undermines precisely why Harvard is the leading institution of higher learning.”
Maginn’s letter comes a little more than a week after reports first surfaced showing that the Law School had used Warren’s minority status to buoy its own diversity numbers. The School claimed that Warren, who has said that she is 1/32nd Cherokee, was one of two minority women on the faculty.
Warren refused to apologize after her opponent, U.S. Senator Scott Brown, urged her to do so. Warren’s camp has yet to respond directly to information from the Association of American Law Schools desk book that shows that Warren reported herself as a minority professor from 1986 until shortly after she arrived at Harvard in 1995, according to the Boston Globe.
“The simple fact is that Elizabeth is proud of her heritage,’’ Warren spokesperson Alethea Harney said in a statement.
But Maginn and others said that without documentation—thus far the Warren campaign has been unable to produce any—Warren’s claims to Native American heritage could be untrue.
“Despite her insistence that she is an American Indian based upon ‘family lore’ and her observation that some in her family had ‘high cheekbones like all the Indians do,’ she has failed to produce a single shred of evidence to substantiate her claim,” Maginn wrote.
Maginn’s letter Sunday appears to be unlinked to Brown’s campaign. The Republican senator, who declined to comment on the letter, has also called informally for an investigation into the possible advantages Warren may have gained with her status.
“Failing a thorough investigation, Ms. Warren’s actions will make a mockery of Harvard’s eloquently expressed commitment to diversity,” Maginn wrote.
He also suggested that the University might be complicit in misrepresenting Warren’s ancestry in an effort to boost diversity numbers.
“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,” he wrote.
Those involved in Warren’s recruitment and ultimate hiring said her racial affiliation was not a matter of consideration when she was first recruited as a visiting professor in 1993 or when she was elected to the faculty in 1995.
“Elizabeth Warren’s heritage had absolutely no role in the decision to recruit her to Harvard Law School,” Law School professor Laurence H. Tribe ’62 wrote in an email. Tribe was one of several faculty members who encouraged Law School administrators to recruit Warren and later voted to grant her tenure.
“Our decision was entirely based on her extraordinary expertise and legendary teaching ability. This whole dispute is fabricated out of whole cloth and has no connection to reality,” Tribe wrote.
Law School professor Charles Fried, who was a member of the appointments committee that brought Warren to Harvard from the University of Pennsylvania, called any suggestion that Warren was hired for any reason but merit “complete nonsense.”
“Elizabeth Warren was recruited (she did not apply—one does not apply for these positions) to be a tenured professor at Harvard because she was preeminent in the fields of bankruptcy and commercial law, two fields in which we had strong teaching needs,” Fried said in a statement released by the Law School.
University spokesperson John Longbrake added in an email, “President Faust has seen Professor Fried’s statement, found it persuasive and considers the matter closed.”
—Staff writer Nicholas P. Fandos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.