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Embattled anthropology prof settles lawsuit with SJSU, gets gig as ‘heterodox’ scholar

After an 18-month legal battle with San Jose State University, anthropology Professor Elizabeth Weiss recently agreed to retire from her job to settle a lawsuit she filed against her employers.

Weiss, who had been effectively canceled by her department for ardently supporting the studying of Native American remains, will retire at the end of the 2023-24 school year with full retirement benefits and emeritus status as part of the agreement.

The courts had earlier ruled she could not be granted access to the bones she sought to examine over the objection of Native American tribes, so the settlement frees Weiss up to study collections elsewhere, even during her final year of employment with SJSU.

To that end, the anthropologist has accepted a position as an inaugural faculty fellow with the nonpartisan Heterodox Academy’s new Center for Academic Pluralism, which seeks to produce scholarship that supports intellectual and viewpoint diversity unencumbered by political correctness on campus, its website states.

Weiss is also poised to become a board member with the National Association of Scholars, which supports intellectual diversity and academic freedom.

Weiss and campus leaders “have reached an agreement in which she has voluntarily submitted her resignation effective May 29, 2024, and will dismiss her lawsuit,” the university said in a statement to the Mercury News.

Weiss told The College Fix she is pleased with the settlement.

“I will be able to conduct more research than would have been the case had I remained at SJSU,” she said via email. “I will have the time to visit collections that are available elsewhere.”

Weiss, who begins the Heterodox Academy faculty fellowship in New York this month, said she plans to visit museums, meet with curators, continue research work on bones, and present at the American Anthropological Association conference.

She said she is also looking forward to actively engaging with the National Association of Scholars and “their many fine members to help return academia to a focus on intellectual freedom and objective truths.”

Rather than support an environment of intellectual curiosity and discovery, higher education — and in particular San Jose State — has abandoned those ideals, Weiss wrote in an Aug. 11 column for the Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

“In the mission, vision, and values statements, social-justice terms such as ‘equity,’ ‘belonging,’ ‘diversity,’ and ‘inclusion’ appear multiple times. Nowhere do we find the words ‘freedom,’ ‘truth,’ ‘skills,’ or ‘knowledge.’ This is the future SJSU is building,” Weiss wrote.

Weiss has taught at SJSU since 2004. Eighteen months ago, she filed a lawsuit against the university after she was blamed for racism and “colonial violence” and was locked out of SJSU’s human remains collections.

Among some of Weiss’ controversial arguments, she has challenged the claim that Native Americans are better at all topics than non-Native Americans and that only Native Americans should teach courses on Native Americans.

But the main complaint by her peers is her argument against repatriation laws that require human remains to be returned to Native American ancestral burial grounds. She argues ideology should not trump science, and that remains with only a tentative relationship to the tribes that claim them should be kept for research.

MORE: Professor condemned as ‘racist’ by her department after supporting colorblind research

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About the Author
Rachel Culver -- The Master's University