Harvard law dean cited ‘affirmative action’ in 1994; Elizabeth Warren’s academic qualifications questioned

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In a 1994 interview, then-Harvard Law School dean Robert Clark said his institution was actively applying an affirmative action policy to hiring female faculty, The Daily Caller has learned. The famed law school first offered Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren a professorship in 1992 and granted her tenure in 1995.

And charges leveled in a 1990 academic law journal raised serious questions about her qualifications to teach at Harvard at all. (RELATED: Complete coverage of Elizabeth Warren)

In 1991, Rutgers Professor Phillip Schuchman reviewed Warren’s co-authored 1989 book “As We Forgive Our Debtors: Bankruptcy and Consumer Credit in America” in the pages of the Rutgers Law Review, a publication Warren once edited. Schuchman found “serious errors” which result in “grossly mistaken functions and comparisons.”

Warren and her co-authors had drawn improper conclusions from “even their flawed findings,” and “made their raw data unavailable” to check, he wrote. “In my opinion, the authors have engaged in repeated instances of scientific misconduct.”

The work “contains so much exaggeration, so many questionable ploys, and so many incorrect statements that it would be well to check the accuracy of their raw data, as old as it is,” Schuchman added.

Harvard Law School appears to have overlooked that review, in part, because of its commitment to hiring a woman professor. (RELATED: Native American accuses Elizabeth Warren and Harvard of ‘ethnic fraud’)

“We’re clearly trying to add more women to the faculty,” Clark told the Harvard Law Record in March 1994.

“Clark said HLS was engaging ‘affirmative action’ to the extent it was working to increase the number of women considered and interviewed,” wrote the Record’s Greg Stohr. “He also said the Law School would be willing to hire a qualified woman, even if her area of expertise did not fit an immediate need, but he stopped short of saying the school would lower its qualification requirements for women.”

“I guess what we’re not ready to do is to have a different standard,” Clark told the Record.

But Warren, now on a leave of absence from Harvard to run for office, is the only law school professor there who did not graduate from a top-ten law school. Of the 350 Ivy League law school professors, Warren graduated from the second worst ranked school — Rutgers, ranked no. 82 according to a May 2012 analysis by The Washington Examiner.

Clark had been feeling pressure. In 1992, positive tenure decisions about four white male faculty members touched off student protests and demonstrations which included taking over the dean’s office.

Warren’s first tenure offer in February 1993 coincided with a Friday vigil held by law students demanding more female and minority professors. Students agitating for more campus diversity praised Clark’s commitment to bringing more women on campus, but wanted more minorities. (RELATED: Newly uncovered documents show Warren’s ancestors listed as ‘white’)

Hiring more women and minority professors “was something that people were doing already and with their own sense of how to adjust to all the different values and goals we have,” Clark told the Record in October 1994.

“Noting that he wanted to ‘increase diversity on all fronts,’ Clark said HLS needed to remedy its lack of women professors,” the Record reported in February 1995 after Warren accepted the job.

“No matter how you count it, we’re short [on women faculty], and I’ve been trying to address that,” Clark said then.

In a letter to the Harvard Law Record in December 1995, Clark praised his own successes.

“I should note that if one includes visiting professors, lecturers, and clinical instructors, the number of women teaching here full-time in 1995-1996 is 33,” he wrote. “Including part-time teachers the number of women is 51. Of the 15 appointments made over the last four years, seven have been women.”

“It is my goal to offer women students the best possible environment for the study of law and to increase the number of women students and the number of women on the faculty. I think we have made substantial progress in this direction.”

Warren, who had been a visiting professor in 1992, championed the student diversity protests, telling the Record that Harvard law students “have exercised power in a very interesting way.”  Citing personal reasons — her husband was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania — Warren turned down that first tenure offer in April 1993, much to Clark’s disappointment.

“I worked very hard on that,” Clark told the Record. “I really wish we could have had a different result.”

Six of the eleven offers of visiting professorships that year went to women. The Record ran a headline on March 18, 1994, reading, “HLS Takes Steps to Bring in Female Profs.”

Warren herself seems to have doubted her own fitness to be a Harvard Law professor. “If you’d told me [I would be granted a tenure offer], “I’d simply have laughed at you and said, ‘What a charming thought! I have as good a chance of flying a rocket ship to the moon,’” she told the Record in February 1993. (RELATED: Geronimo’s great-grandson on Elizabeth Warren: “It’s a shame when somebody’s taking advantage of your identity”)

Warren ultimately accepted the tenure offer in 1995 and encouraged the campus to become increasingly diverse. Adding women to the faculty is “terribly important,” she told the Record, because without affirmative action “think of all the smart and interesting people you wouldn’t meet.”

Now as Warren runs for the U.S. Senate, she downplays her past while claiming the mantle of meritocracy.

“We’re Americans. We celebrate success. We just don’t want the game to be rigged,” she told the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

“We’ve fought to level the playing field before. … Americans are fighters. We are tough, resourceful and creative.”

Warren’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

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This article was updated after publication to correct Harvard Law School Dean Robert Clark’s first name. TheDC regrets the error.