University of California, Riverside Tenured Professor Accused of Fabricating Native American Heritage Allowed to Retire with Benefits and Title Intact

University of California, Riverside Tenured Professor Accused of Fabricating Native American Heritage Allowed to Retire with Benefits and Title Intact

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 will reportedly be allowed to keep her current position through August of 2024. She will be allowed to teach classes until then.

Separation Agreement and Departure

Smith’s departure is the result of a separation agreement negotiated by the school.

It comes in the wake of a recent complaint by more than a dozen faculty members, who accused her of violating academic integrity by lying about her Native American lineage.

The agreement is unusual both in that it will allow Smith to retain full benefits and the use of the honorary emeritus title, and in that the university will pay Smith up to $5,000 to cover the legal costs she undertook to resolve the complaint.

Smith and the school signed the deal in January.

Its terms avoid an investigation into the faculty complaint and allow Riverside to dodge the legal battle that could be the result of its move to fire a tenured professor.

Accusations and History

Accusations that Smith lied repeatedly about her Native American heritage date back to at least 2008, when she was denied tenure at the University of Michigan.

A spokesperson for Riverside said the agreement “brings a timely conclusion to Professor Smith’s continued employment with the university.”

Investigations of tenured faculty members for alleged misconduct have the potential for litigation and appeals and can unfold over the course of years, he added.

Ethnic Background Allegations

Allegations about Smith’s ethnic background first surfaced in 2008 when her dissertation adviser, Angela Davis, called her “one of the greatest Indigenous feminist intellectuals of our time.”

Cherokee academics began investigating Smith’s claims, revealing that she was not registered with the Cherokee nation.

Despite these concerns, she was hired by UC-Riverside in 2015.

Prominent Cherokee genealogist David Cornsilk discovered no links between Smith and the Cherokee Nation, raising doubts about her claims.

Challenges to Identity and Career Focus

Over the years, many have challenged Smith’s identity, including representatives of the Cherokee Nation.

Smith’s work primarily focuses on violence against women of color, especially Native American women.

She has taken relatively hostile stances against white feminists for claiming Native American heritage.

Family members have also come forward to refute her claims of Native American blood in their family tree.

Retirement and Legacy

UC-Riverside stood by its tenure choice despite the controversy.

In 2015, Smith made a formal statement asserting her Cherokee identity and commitment to justice for Native communities.

Now, Smith will retire with full benefits and an honorary title, leaving behind decades of alleged lies.


The case of Andrea Smith raises complex questions about academic integrity, identity, and the consequences of professional misconduct.

The decision to allow her to retire with benefits and her title intact is controversial, as it avoids a more thorough investigation into the accusations against her.

It also highlights the challenges universities face when dealing with tenured faculty members accused of misconduct.

This case emphasizes the importance of transparency, accountability, and ethical behavior within academic institutions.