We’re nothing if not reality-based here at BMG – at least, we try. So I thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to see what was being publicly said around the time that Elizabeth Warren was hired as a law professor at Harvard in 1995. Fortunately, the Harvard Crimson’s archives are all readily available online, so it’s a fairly straightforward exercise in targeted Googling.
The bottom line: there was a lot of talk about the fact that Elizabeth Warren is a woman, and that Harvard Law School didn’t have a very good record at the time of tenuring women faculty. But, as far as I can tell, her Native American heritage was not publicly mentioned until at least a year after she was hired. Since it’s well known that the lack of minority women on Harvard Law’s faculty had been a hot issue for years – recall then-law student Barack Obama’s now-famous introduction of Derrick Bell, who ultimately gave up his Harvard professorship over the issue, at a law school rally in 1990 - it would be extraordinary if Warren’s background were known but never mentioned.
The fact that the student-run – and diversity-supporting – Harvard Crimson never thought to mention Warren’s heritage, even in its Feb. 22, 1995 editorial praising her hiring – seems to strongly support Professor Charles Fried’s insistence that Warren’s background simply never came up in the hiring process. We don’t know, because Harvard won’t say, what led law school spokesman Mike Chmura to comment publicly on her background in 1996, apparently for the first time, but even his 1996 comment supports the notion that precious few people at Harvard were aware of Warren’s heritage, since he said that the “conventional wisdom among students and faculty” was that even after Warren’s hiring, there were no minority women at Harvard Law. In any event, that comment seems to have made Warren’s Native American heritage part of the narrative at Harvard, judging from subsequent Crimson stories. But it seems clear that, while Warren’s gender was certainly relevant to her hiring by Harvard, her Native American ancestry was not. (To be clear: I’m not saying that Warren was hired “because she was a woman.” Obviously, her credentials were stellar. But there’s no doubt that Harvard Law School was under pressure in the 1990s to increase the number of tenured women on its faculty, and the contemporary accounts shown below repeatedly discuss that issue in connection with Warren’s hiring.)
The easiest way to do this seems to be a simple chronology. Here, then, are links to the relevant articles I’ve been able to find from the Crimson’s archives, along with some key excerpts. If I’ve missed something, by all means please let me know. I’ve added emphasis to parts that seem especially relevant.
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.” …
Despite the fact that a female was offered tenure, some students said they did not think the move went far enough, and said they wanted more ideological diversity as well.
“The fact that the tenure offers tend to be right of center, and only white women is disturbing,” said second year student Julie A. Su. “Their definition of diversity tends to be very limited.” …
There are still no tenured women of color on the Law School faculty. Five of the 60 tenured faculty at the Law School are women….
“In order to show a real commitment to diversity they need to do more than pass a resolution and bring in white women,” Su said. “They need women of color and ideological diversity.”
Visiting Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren, one of the two female scholars offered tenure by Harvard Law School this year, said yesterday that she will not accept the post.
Warren, who holds a tenured position at the University of Pennsylvania, said that her decision was based on “personal reasons.” …
Student support for her is unprecedented at the Law School.
“I’m heartbroken,” said third-year law student Elizabeth A. Moreno, one of the students in Warren’s bankruptcy law class. “She is loved by both the right and the left, something that is unheard of at Harvard Law School.”
According to Moreno, Warren’s bipartisan appeal and excellent teaching ability caused students on both the right and the left of the Law School’s extremely divided political spectrum to lobby for her.
Last year, in the face of student protests for increased faculty diversity, the Law School offered tenure to a group of scholars who came to be known as the Four White Males….
This year, things have been a little different. Early in the spring semester, the Law School offered tenure to two female professors, Carol Rose of Yale and Elizabeth Warren of the University of Pennsylvania, who is currently a visiting professor at Harvard.
Although neither woman accepted Harvard’s offer, most students now recognize that some change has occurred, even if it has not been as swift as they would have liked.
University of Pennsylvania legal scholar Elizabeth Warren has been appointed the Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, University officials announced yesterday.
Warren, who taught at the law school as a visiting professor during the spring of 1993, said yesterday the offer had been available since that time, but added that family circumstances had kept her from accepting the position until now.
Warren will become the tenth women [sic] professor at the law school, which has more than 80 professors on its faculty.
In recent years, the Law School has been criticized for its low number of women faculty. The issue sparked wide-spread student protest in 1992 and 1993. However, Warren’s appointment comes as the latest in a series of recent women faculty hires….
In a press release issued yesterday, Dean of the Law School Robert C. Clark praised Warren’s appointment.
“Liz Warren is a spectacular addition to our faculty,” he said. “She is a leading scholar in the fields of bankruptcy and commercial law, and she is one of the rare legal academics to have devoted herself to a large-scale empirical research project of great relevance to legal policy making.”
With every appointment of a female professor at Harvard, there is cause for celebration and cause for dismay: celebration because each additional woman on Harvard’s faculty represents a step toward balancing the male-skewed gender ratio, and dismay because men still make up the overwhelming majority of Harvard’s faculty.
With the appointment last week of University of Pennsylvania legal scholar Elizabeth Warren, however, Harvard Law School appears to be giving cause for celebration. Warren will become the tenth female professor out of 69 law school faculty members, making women about 15 percent of the school’s faculty. Compared to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, where women make up slightly over 10 percent of the total faculty, the law school is not doing that badly. Fifteen percent may not be much, but it certainly represents some progress….
Warren is the first person, male or female, appointed this academic year at the law school. Additionally, this hiring represents one step in meeting Law School Dean Robert C. Clark’s stated goal of increasing the number of women on the faculty.
And gender aside, Warren is an ideal person to teach at the law school. Her teaching record is spectacular, and her scholarship is impeccable. When she was a visiting professor at Harvard two years ago, she was very popular with students, and last year she was awarded a University of Pennsylvania teaching award.
Warren has made major contributions to the fields of bankcruptcy and commercial law. Her research conclusions will have important ramifications for future legal policy making in this areas. It is good to see the law school hiring someone known for her teaching as well as for her research and contribution to current public policy.
Because female and male professors can offer different outlooks on the world, it is important for both female and male students to receive instruction and mentorship from professors of both genders. We applaud the law school for its recent hiring of qualified and superb women professors and hope the trend continues.
A majority of Harvard Law School students are unhappy with the level of representation of women and minorities on the Law School faculty, according to a recent survey.
The survey distributed last May by the Coalition for Civil Rights (CCR), reported that 83 percent of respondents believe the number of minority women on the Law School faculty is inadequate….
Of 71 current Law School professors and assistant professors, 11 are women, five are black, one is Native American and one is Hispanic, said Mike Chmura, spokesperson for the Law School.
Although the conventional wisdom among students and faculty is that the Law School faculty includes no minority women, Chmura said Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren is Native American.
When she begins teaching this fall, Guinier will become the first black woman to be a tenured professor in the 181-year history of the Law School. About three years ago, Gottlieb Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren, who is of Native American descent, become the first woman with a minority background to be tenured.
Guinier will become the first female African-American professor in the 181-year history of HLS. A former Clinton nominee and former NAACP lawyer and an expert on voting rights and civil-rights law, Guinier is a welcome addition to the HLS faculty. However, her appointment is the first in what continues to be a painfully slow process of bringing professors of minority ethnicities to the Harvard University faculty.
Harvard Law School currently has only one tenured minority woman, Gottlieb Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren, who is Native American. The racial makeup of the HLS Faculty has been an issue before as well: in 1989, Harvard dismissed Weld Professor of Law Derrick A. Bell after 18 years of teaching because the noted expert on race and law refused to end his leave in protest of the absence of minority women on HLS faculty.