A tenured professor at the University of California, Riverside, who has long been accused of fabricating her Native American heritage, will be allowed to retire with full benefits and her title intact.
Ethnic studies professor Andrea Smith would be allowed to stay in her current position until August 2024. She will be allowed to teach classes by then.
Smith’s departure is the result of a school-brokered separation agreement. This follows a recent lawsuit filed by more than a dozen professors, who accused him of violating academic integrity by lying about his Native American lineage.
The deal is unusual both in that it will allow Smith to retain all benefits and use of the honorary title emeritus, and in that the university will pay Smith up to $5,000 to cover legal costs it incurred to resolve the complaint.
Smith and the school signed the agreement in January. Its terms avoid an investigation into the professor’s complaint and allow Riverside to avoid the legal battle that could result from its decision to fire a tenured professor.
Accusations that Smith repeatedly lied about her Native American heritage date back to at least 2008, when she was denied tenure at the University of Michigan.
Andrea Smith has long been accused of lying about her Native American heritage – on which a significant part of her career is based.
Her colleagues had filed a complaint against her for attacking academic integrity” class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%” />
The University of California, Riverside backed Smith, offering tenure until January, when the school brokered an attractive severance package for Smith. Her colleagues had filed a complaint against her for attacking academic integrity
A spokesman for Riverside said the deal “brings a timely conclusion to Professor Smith’s continued employment at the university”.
“Investigations of a tenured faculty member for alleged misconduct may result in litigation and appeals, and may take several years,” he added.
Allegations about Smith’s ethnicity first surfaced in 2008, when her thesis supervisor, famed radical activist, Marxist and academic, Angela Davis, called her former student “one of the greatest indigenous feminist intellectuals of our time”.
It was then that Cherokee scholars began to do their due diligence on Smith.
Native American scholar Steve Russell discovered that, although much of his personal and public identity was based on his status as a member of the Cherokee Nation, Smith was not registered with the tribe.
After failing to secure her job at Michigan, Smith was quickly hired by UC-Riverside, but questions about her lineage did not go away.
In 2015, amid the scandal centered on race faker Rachel Dolezal, Smith again came under fire.
Prominent Cherokee genealogist David Cornsilk said he had researched Smith’s lineage years before, after she approached him to discuss his genetic background.
Importantly, Cornsilk said he found no connection between Smith and the Cherokee Nation.
Smith’s thesis supervisor, renowned radical activist, Marxist, and scholar, Angela Davis, called her former student “one of the greatest Indigenous feminist intellectuals of our time.”
In an op-ed from the time, Cornsilk wrote, “Wanted people like Andrea use the myths of the Cherokees hiding in the hills, being passed off as whites, or being saved by righteous whites, to perpetuate their lies. »
‘In the 1990s, Andrea Smith contacted me as a Cherokee genealogist, twice, to see if she had any connection,” he continued.
“My research on Smith’s ancestry showed that his ancestry was not related to the Cherokee people.
“In the years since, many have challenged his identity, including representatives of the Cherokee Nation.
“In the years that followed, she had ample opportunity to present evidence for her Cherokee claims.”
But she didn’t.
Cornsilk posited that Smith could back down from her public assertions about Cherokee blood, but could not admit her utter deception, given that much of her career hinged on being a woman of color.
Smith’s work primarily focuses on violence against women of color, particularly Native American women.
Ironically perhaps, she has taken relatively hostile positions in the past against white feminists for “choosing to become” Native American.
Over the years, various members of Smith’s family have come out to say that there is no Native American blood in their family tree.
A relative on his father’s side said of his claims, “Yeah, we heard about it and kind of shook our heads. »
The relative confirmed that his father Donald was not Ojibwe (another tribe to which Smith allegedly claimed to be related); instead, he is a white male of British ancestry.
A relative of her mother Helen, Margaret Jane Wilkinson, said Helen never identified as Native American – until she did.
Another relative, cousin Barbara Smith, dismissed the idea that someone’s grandfather was Native American, adding, “We’re mostly Scandinavian.”
UC-Riverside has maintained its choice of mandate all these years.
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Until recently, his employer – UC-Riverside – seemed oblivious to the issue and defended his tenured professor as a “high merit” academic.
Smith would be allowed to stay in her current position until August 2024. She will be allowed to teach classes by then, and her legal fees will be paid and her benefits will remain intact after she leaves.
When she came under fire in 2015, the school called her “a teacher and researcher of great merit”, regardless of how her colleagues may have felt.
By 2015, her scandal had snowballed enough that Smith decided to issue an official statement:
“To the academic and social justice organizing communities of which I have been a part for many years and to whom I am indebted:
“I always have been and always will be Cherokee. I always identified with what I knew to be true. My registration status does not impact my Cherokee identity or my ongoing commitment to organizing justice for Indigenous communities.
“Countless false statements have been made about me in the media. But in the end, what is most disturbing is that these social media attacks send a chilling message to all Indigenous peoples who are unregistered or otherwise marginalized: they should not work publicly to justice for indigenous peoples, lest they too be. day be attacked.
“I hope more Indigenous people will heed the call to work for social justice without fear of being subjected to violent identity policing. I also hope that the field of Indigenous studies can deal with disagreements and differences in a way that respects the dignity of all people rather than through abusive social media campaigns.
Out of respect for the dignity and privacy of my family, and out of concern for the damage these attacks have caused to my students, colleagues, and organizing communities, I will once again dedicate my energies to social justice work.
The tenuous statement that obscures the fundamental issue is how Smith has chosen to approach controversy throughout his career.
Now, she will potentially emerge from some three decades of alleged lies with full benefits and an honorary title.