Elizabeth Warren’s tenured appointment at Harvard Law School during a time when she claimed to be a Native American “woman of color” was directly connected to protests for “faculty diversity” led in the 1980s and early 1990s by the late Critical Race Theory professor Derrick Bell, according to the Boston Globe today. Breitbart News reported in March that Barack Obama, then president of the Harvard Law Review, had joined protestors, urging students in April 1990 to “open up your hearts and your minds to the words of Professor Derrick Bell.”
The Globe‘s Mary Carmichael reports that Harvard University filed diversity reports with the federal government for six straight years that claimed that one of its law professors was Native American–and that the information was likely provided by Elizabeth Warren herself. Warren is now a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, challenging incumbent Republican Scott Brown.
Carmichael’s article picks up on reporting at Breitbart News, the Legal Insurrection blog, the Boston Herald, and elsewhere that has established that Warren likely used an undocumented claim of membership in the Cherokee Nation to advance her career. She also makes the connection between Warren’s tenure and Bell’s stand–though she does not mention Obama’s role in the protests:
In the years before Warren first came to Harvard Law, the school was under intense pressure to diversify its faculty. In 1990, Derrick Bell, a prominent black law professor, went on a one-man strike, taking an unpaid leave of absence to protest the fact that the law school had not yet brought a black female academic permanently on board. He was dismissed from the faculty.
The same year, the Department of Labor audited Harvard’s diversity practices based on its affirmative action plan, the thick census and policy document all major employers are required to compile each year and make available to the department on request. Also in 1990, 12 students sued the law school, alleging it discriminated against academic job applicants on the basis of race and gender.
The suit was ultimately dismissed when a judge ruled the students had not demonstrated that they were “persons aggrieved.” Harvard agreed to remedy 10 violations the Labor Department identified, bringing the audit to an end. But the controversy over diversity at Harvard Law did not cease.
Michael Patrick Leahy, writing at Breitbart News this morning, described the unusual role played by then-Dean Robert C. Clark, who coordinated with student protestors holding a vigil outside the faculty meeting that offered Warren her coveted, tenured post:
In addition to the likely communication between Warren and the editors of the 1993 Harvard Women’s Law Journal, who publicly reported her claimed “woman of color” status, and the highly volatile political situation at the time, there is what appears to be an unusual degree of cooperation between then-Dean Robert C. Clark and a group of Harvard Law School students protesting for more hiring diversity at Harvard.
Former Harvard Law School Dean Arthur C. Clark
On February 6, 1993, the Harvard Crimson reported:
The Law School faculty voted yesterday to offer a tenured position to Visiting Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren, a member of the Appointments Committee said last night.
Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence Charles Fried said Warren received strong support from the faculty, including a unanimous endorsement from the Appointments Committee.
The vote marks an advance in the student and faculty effort to improve faculty diversity, according to several of the approximately 65 students participating in a silent vigil outside the faculty meeting in Pound Hall yesterday….
“Everyone at CCR [Coalition for Civil Rights] is totally elated that Professor Warren received tenure,” said third-year law student Lucy H. Koh. “CCR just wants to see some gender diversity on the faculty.” … Yesterday’s vigil was prompted by a tip from [Dean Robert C.]Clark, some students said.
“The rumor is that [Clark] asked a member of CCR to organize the vigil and that the dean told her they are voting on a woman today,” said third year student Elizabeth G. Moreno.
“If the rumor is true, I’m surprised that Dean Clark would suggest a vigil,” Moreno said.
Clark’s apparent use of student protestors was not only politically savvy, but deeply ironic, since he had been the target of student protest in the 1980s and early 1990s. As reported by PJ Media’s J. Christian Adams, law students occupied Dean Clark’s office in 1988. (As an interesting aside, Adams notes that one of the apparent occupiers was Michelle Robinson, later Michelle Obama.)
From attempting to ignore the impact of Derrick Bell and Critical Race Theory on Barack Obama and his administration, the mainstream media has now come full circle, forced to begin acknowledging the link through the Elizabeth Warren fiasco. The fact is that Obama and a cohort of legal activists from the same era–including Warren and Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan–were deeply influenced by Bell’s ideas and his example of protest, and that many of the members of that cohort are now serving in powerful positions today.
The pull of identity politics was so strong that Warren–and Obama–sought not only to re-shape the world, but to re-shape their personal identities to fit the political needs–and practical opportunities–of the moment.