Anita Hill's appointment as University Professor celebrated

Photo/Mike Lovett

Hill delivers her University Professor lecture, "Undoing ‘Generations of Rank Discrimination’"

When Anita Hill was appointed a visiting scholar at Brandeis in 1998, she wasn’t sure how long she would remain at the university. She quickly became an established member of the Brandeis community ­— valued for her scholarship, administrative insight and effectiveness as a teacher — and her role with the university quickly grew.
Seventeen years later, Brandeis bestowed one of its most prestigious academic honors on Hill, appointing her a University Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women's Studies.
The Brandeis community celebrated Hill’s newest appointment on Sept. 24 at an event that featured a lecture by Hill – "Undoing ‘Generations of Rank Discrimination: Inclusive Communities and the Future of Anti-Bias Forensics” – followed by a reception.

"Anita, you gave voice and you shed light on an issue (sexual harassment in the workplace) that was there, but that no one was willing to acknowledge," Interim Brandeis President Lisa Lynch said during the event. "I have no doubt you will continue to help everyone in this room and outside of this room engage and show light on other forms of discrimination, and we're so delighted you're doing that here at Brandeis University."

Hill entered the public eye in 1991 for her testimony during the congressional hearings for the appointment of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court. She has continued to be an important national voice on issues of race, gender and workplace discrimination while building an impressive academic career and writing two notable books, "Speaking Truth to Power" and "Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home," and numerous law review articles and book chapters.

The title of University Professor is awarded to faculty members of surpassing eminence whose work cuts across disciplinary boundaries, who have achieved exceptional scholarly or professional distinction within the academic community, and whose appointment will enhance the reputation and prestige of the university. 

"Anita Hill brings to her work a powerful and eloquent voice that commands our attention and engages both the heart and the mind," said Interim Provost Irving Epstein, who was a driving force behind originally bringing Hill to Brandeis.

Hill is only the seventh-ever University Professor at Brandeis. Saul G. Cohen, J.V. Cunningham, Frank Manuel and Robert Reich were previously appointed, and David Hackett Fischer and Steve A. N. Goldstein are the only current faculty members who have received the distinction. The university's Board of Trustees unanimously approved Hill's appointment in March.

Her University Lecture, "Undoing ‘Generations of Rank Discrimination,’" focused on the recent Supreme Court decision on Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., and how it could open the door to a closer examination of instances of systemic biases, whether its racism, sexism, or other forms of discrimination.

"We are at a point in time, this very important moment in time, when we are looking beyond more traditional ways of proving discrimination," Hill said. "We're looking for new, informed ways of proving discrimination, ways that are informed by, in many ways, the research that takes place at the university."

Universities have an opportunity to set examples for inclusive communities, and have an obligation to question long-standing traditions that may not be deliberately discriminatory but may be unconsciously biased, Hill said.

"I see universities as places where we should be modeling the inclusive community value in its fullest form," Hill said. "Which means we have to ask ourselves some tough questions about how we deal with unconscious bias and how we deal with exclusionary systems and policies, which we keep as part of the academic tradition even though they do not contribute to our academic mission."

Categories: Alumni, Humanities and Social Sciences

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