Records shed more light on Elizabeth Warren’s minority status

A second law school, the University of Pennsylvania, has touted Elizabeth Warren as a minority faculty member in an official school publication, according to an online document obtained by the Globe.

The University of Pennsylvania, where Warren taught at the law school from 1987 through 1995, listed her as a minority in a “Minority Equity Report’’ posted on its website. The report, published in 2005, well after her departure, included her as the winner of a faculty award in 1994. Her name was highlighted in bold, the designation used for minorities in the report.

A spokesman for the law school did not immediately return a phone message today.


The reference offers another piece of evidence that Warren was identified as a Native American as part of her professional career. Warren has said she was unaware that Harvard University, her current employer, had described her as a Native American when it was under fire for a lack of diversity on its law school faculty.

Warren has said she has long believed she has Native American ancestry, based on family lore, but has not documented the connection and is not enrolled in a tribe. One genealogist has found evidence that Warren is 1/32 Cherokee. Faculty and deans from each of the law schools where she has taught have said her ancestry was not a factor in her hiring.

The Warren campaign today pointed to a previous statement from Stephen Burbank, a professor and former dean at Penn Law School who helped recruit her to the faculty there.

“Her appointment was based on the excellence of her scholarship and teaching. I do not know whether members of the faculty were even aware of her ancestry, but I am confident that it played no role whatsoever in her appointment,’’ Burbank said in a statement last week. Burbank donated $250 to Warren’s campaign in December.


Meanwhile, the Globe has also obtained a portion of Warren’s 1973 application to Rutgers, where she attended law school. That document specifically asks: “Are you interested in applying for admission under the Program for Minority Group Students?’’ Warren answered “no.’’

In addition, a newly unearthed University of Texas personnel document shows that Warren listed herself as “white’’ when she taught at the law school there from 1981 to 1991.

The undated document, obtained by the Globe through a public records request, supports Warren’s statement that she did not present herself as a Native American when hired for the job. But it leaves open the question of why she later listed herself as a minority in a legal directory that is often consulted by hiring deans.

Warren’s employment document at the University of Texas allowed her to check multiple boxes specifying “the racial category or categories with which you most closely identify.’’ The options included “American Indian or Alaskan Native,’’ but she chose only white. The form was probably not filled out by Warren until soon after she was hired, within a year, according to Annela M. Lopez, senior administrative associate in the office of the vice president and chief financial officer.


Lopez said professors typically do not fill out standard job applications and instead rely on curriculum vitae when applying for jobs. Once hired, professors and other employees are required to fill out a larger biographical form, which includes the minority identification question. Lopez said the school’s records indicate that Warren did not update her form after she first filled it out, probably sometime around 1981.

The school had previously told the Globe that its electronic records indicate Warren listed herself as white.

Neither the University of Pennsylvania, where Warren subsequently taught, nor Harvard, where she has taught since 1995, has released employment records for Warren, a Democrat running for the US Senate against Republican Senator Scott Brown. Both Harvard and Penn are private institutions and are not required to release their employment records under law.

Brown has challenged Warren to ask the schools to make those documents available. She has declined and called the issue a distraction.

The emergence of the University of Texas form does not explain why Warren listed herself as a minority in a widely used Association of American law Schools directory from 1986 through 1995.

Warren has said she was proud of her Native American heritage and that she was hoping to connect with “people like me.’’ The directory, however, did not list her as someone with Native American heritage. It simply said “minority.’’ Harvard Law School also touted Warren as a Native American in the Harvard Crimson when it was under fire for a lack of diversity on its faculty.


Leonard P. Strickman, founding dean at Florida International University, one of the nation’s most diverse law schools, said deans often consult the Association of American Law Schools directory when seeking out minority applicants, but look more rigorously at scholarship before making hires.

The form filled out by faculty, he said, requires them to check off a box that includes more specific categories of ethnic and racial background. The directory, however, just uses the broader term “minority.’’

He said schools encourage faculty to list their minority backgrounds in the directory if it can be backed up factually.

“It’s not enough to be a minority,’’ said Strickman, who has served as a dean at three law schools. “She has proved herself so well that it’s kind of nonsense that she doesn’t belong at the Harvard Law School.’’


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on