Monday, June 25, 2012

University of Texas Whitewash of Elizabeth Warren Scientific Misconduct Charge Entangles UVA, UC Presidents

When Elizabeth Warren, Teresa A. Sullivan, and Jay Westbrook, co-authors of the 1989 book As We Forgive Our Debtors: Bankruptcy and Consumer Credit in America, were charged by Rutgers Law School Professor Philip Shuchman with scientific misconduct in 1990, they quickly asked for an investigation to clear their names. Sullivan, who resigned earlier this month as President of the University of Virginia, “immediately asked [her] employer, The University of Texas, to investigate the charge,” as she told me in a letter I received by email from her on June 5, 2012.

By 1990, all three co-authors--Sullivan, Warren, and Westbrook--were well established fixtures in University of Texas academic and social circles. Sullivan was the Chairman of the Sociology Department at the University of Texas, and would soon become the Dean of Graduate Studies. Westbrook was a long-tenured member of the faculty at the University of Texas Law School. Warren, who taught at the University of Texas Law School from 1981 to 1987, had by this time moved on to the University of Pennsylvania Law School, a top ten school with great prestige.

Warren’s former colleagues at the University of Texas took pride in her emergence as a rising legal star of the left, a reputation she carefully cultivated. According to some who have followed her career, she was considered a master practitioner of hard-nosed academic political tactics, and her critics in the genteel world of higher education were increasingly wary of her.

It was in that environment that current President of the University of California system Mark Yudof (then Dean of the University of Texas Law School) and current University of Texas Dean of Graduate Studies, ad interim Judith Langlois, wrote the April 1991 report for the investigation that Sullivan requested. It was titled University of Texas Preliminary Inquiry Report: Scientific Misconduct Against Teresa A. Sullivan, Elizabeth Warren, and Jay Westbrook.

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