California professor Andrea Smith to retire without university investigating claims she lied about Native American identity

A California teacher who has been accused for years of misrepresenting her Native American heritage after once criticizing white women for “choosing to become Indian” will step down from her teaching position after negotiating a deal with the school.

The teaching career of Andrea Smith, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Riverside, will come to an end in August 2024, according to a separation agreement reported by the New York Times. The withdrawal comes after 13 faculty members filed a complaint in August 2022 alleging that Smith had lied about her Cherokee identity and violated academic integrity.

But as part of the agreement signed in January, the university will not investigate the faculty’s complaint and Riverside will provide up to $5,000 to Smith to cover any legal costs related to resolving the complaint, the Times reported.

The university never conducted a formal investigation after the complaint was filed, but held informal discussions with Smith, Insider Higher Ed reported, also citing the settlement.

“The negotiated separation agreement marks a timely conclusion to Professor Smith’s continued employment at the university,” a school spokesperson told the Times.

“Investigations of a tenured faculty member for alleged misconduct have the potential for litigation and appeals, and can develop over years.”

Smith will retire in a year, according to the agreement. UC Riverside

Smith will be allowed to teach until he leaves, keep his retirement benefits and have honorary emeritus status, but he will not be listed on the university’s board of directors, the Times reported.

Smith previously rebuked claims that she was falsifying her identity in a 2015 statement even though she was not enrolled in the Cherokee Nation.

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“I have always been and always will be Cherokee,” he said.

“I have consistently identified myself based on what I knew to be true. My registration status does not affect my Cherokee identity or my continued commitment to organizing for justice for Native communities.”

While some native scholars were glad to see Smith out, they were upset that the school didn’t investigate her.

The University of California Riverside said the agreement would avoid a lengthy legal battle. The University of California Riverside said the agreement would avoid a potentially lengthy legal battle. UCR

“She veers and bends and twists, and here she is again,” Harvard professor Philip Deloria told the Times. Deloria and Smith were colleagues when both previously taught at the University of Michigan.

Ironically, Smith once wrote in a 1991 essay that white feminists “often want to dissociate themselves from their whiteness. They do so by choosing to ‘become Indian’”.

“In this way, they can escape responsibility and accountability for white racism,” he wrote. “Of course, white ‘feminists’ want to become only partly Indian.”

Professor Andrea SmithProfessor Andrea Smith

Smith’s identity came under the microscope in 2008 after she was turned down for a tenure job at the University of Michigan, though she soon landed in Riverside, the Times reported.

One of the teachers who filed the most recent complaint told the newspaper that he raised the issue because false identity claims hurt tribal communities.

“Identities are one of the last things we have that are precious and that we have control over,” said ethnic studies professor Gerald Clarke, who is part of the Cahuilla Band of Indians.

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