Elizabeth Warren and the Academia Backlash

Alex MacGillis wonders if Elizabeth Warren's candidacy has been damaged by the academia backlash.

But when you're worrying about getting your kids through college in an era of $50,000 tuition, room and board, it is, shall we say, a little bit dissonant to have the rally for the little guy coming from a professor whose bottom line has benefited from those sky-high tuition rates…

Seriously, if Lizzie Warren, daughter of an Oklahoma City janitor, can't make the jump from the ivory tower, who can? Her troubles may be a sign that the academy's moat has grown wider than it ever intended.


4 thoughts on “Elizabeth Warren and the Academia Backlash

  1. Very similarly to Elizabeth Warren, I have a grandma who was born in Oklahoma, some WASPy ancestry, and family legends of American Indian ancestry. I’ve apparently had European ancestors on the North American continent since the 1630s–ample opportunity for those legends to be quite true. Someday I’ll probably do a DNA test. (I have a couple of relatives who do historical research, and on the frontier, there tended to be a shortage of white women so mountain man types not infrequently had Indian wives/concubines/housekeepers/slaves/whatever. If you research those women, their descendants are often white and well-embedded in the local establishment.)
    Warren’s ancestry has now been very well researched and it seems that her family’s only proven connection to the Cherokee nation was that back in the 1830s, one of her distant ancestors helped with the initial roundup for the Trail of Tears. The great-great-great-grandma (the famous 1/32) did not pan out.
    I have more or less the same claim to Indian ancestry as Elizabeth Warren did before her family history went under the microscope. It would never have occurred to me in a million years to claim official minority status based on a family story or two. Having grown up within easy range of several Indian reservations, I know perfectly well that people with strong enough claims to make some sort of plausible affirmative action case have paperwork to prove it. The question of how Warren wound up described on official university documents as a minority is a murky one, but it doesn’t reflect well on either Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, or Warren herself, the whitest woman in Campbridge, Mass.
    For anybody who hasn’t followed the story:


  2. As I’ve been invited to a tea at a friend’s house to meet Marisa DeFranco, I think Warren’s in trouble.


  3. Warren is now saying that she told University of Pennsylvania and Harvard that she was Native American, but only after hiring. However, she was already listed as a minority in the AALS long before Harvard. Warren’s self-description as Native American seems to come and go predictably with the needs of the hiring process:
    “Warren had previously said only that she indicated minority status in an Association of American Law Schools directory used to make diversity-friendly hires beginning in the 1986-87 school year, the year before she was hired at Penn. She stopped listing herself in the directory in 1995, the year she became a tenured professor at Harvard.
    “Before Warren’s time in the Ivy League – in the early 1980s – she indicated on an official University of Texas form that she was white. She also had the option to indicate Native American heritage at that point, but did not check that box.”
    Warren said famously, “Nobody gets rich alone.” In her particular case, that’s right. She got rich (and she really is rich) in part by appropriating the real privations and struggles of American Indians.


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