Anita Hill, the prominent Brandeis University professor and advocate for women, will deliver the commencement address at Wellesley College on May 31, school officials announced Friday.
“Hill is renowned for her work with civil and women’s rights, in pursuit of social justice, and to combat sexual harassment,” the college said in a statement. “Her voice has been prominent in academia, politics, and in the media regarding gender, race, and equality; the Washington Post has called her a ‘leading face’ of the ongoing #MeToo movement.”
Hill, who entered the public arena in 1991 when she accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, said in the college’s statement that she welcomes the opportunity to speak at Wellesley, which admits only women.
The school counts former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, among its high-profile graduates.
“We are experiencing a watershed moment in which women are making their voices heard throughout society — in business, politics, higher education and social movements,” said Hill, who teaches on gender, race, social policy, and legal history at Brandeis, in the statement. “Wellesley women are known for standing up for justice, and the class of 2019 is graduating into a climate that is challenging, but offers so many possibilities for leadership. I am honored to mark this momentous occasion with the graduating seniors.”
Hill underwent grueling questioning from the all-white, all-male Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 during Thomas’s confirmation hearings, a watershed moment that inflamed women’s sense of injustice and fueled political candidacies in the following election year, dubbed “The Year of the Woman.”
She began pushing for a clearer process for evaluating allegations shortly after her appearance before the Senate committee. Among her suggestions: The senators should ask a neutral party to investigate the allegation and frame their questions around the investigators’ conclusions and experts’ advice, rather than politics or myths about sexual assault.
Hill’s experience during the Thomas hearings returned to the forefront last year, when then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh faced allegations of sexual misconduct.
Kavanaugh’s hearing came after the 2017 rise of #MeToo, an international movement that exposed many instances of women being sexually molested and assaulted, often by powerful men in the workplace.
Hill shared her thoughts on the Kavanaugh hearings in an interview with the Globe in September.
“Today — especially now, after last year’s revelations about what women were experiencing in the workplace in 2017 — it seems to me that’s just another wakeup call,” Hill said of the Kavanaugh hearings. “The Senate and House have both seen what happened when these issues are ignored. They don’t just go away. There need to be systems in place to respond.”
Hill is the author of multiple books, including “Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race and Finding Home” published in 2011 and her 1997 memoir, “Speaking Truth to Power.”