Anita Hill to kick off new 'Raise Your Voice' speaker series

contact: Mark Schwerin
| WMU News
Photo of Anita Hill.

Hill (Photo credit: Jack White)

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Anita Hill, the woman who captivated the nation with her testimony of sexual harassment directed at then-U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, will launch a new speaker series at Western Michigan University.

Hill will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 3, in Kalamazoo's Chenery Auditorium, five days after an award-winning documentary about Hill and the famous Senate hearings is screened at Alamo Drafthouse. The documentary, "Anita: Speaking Truth to Power," will be shown at 5:30 and 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 29, at the downtown theatre at the corner of Portage and South streets.

The talk has been postponed due to bad weather on the East Coast causing travel difficulties. It will be rescheduled later this semester.

'Raise Your Voice' series

The new "Raise Your Voice" speaker series arose from discussions at the Lee Honors College about issues of violence and hostility against women that have surfaced in recent months, says Dean Carla Koretsky.

"I think especially a lot of us were aghast at the statistic that as many as one in five women on college campuses may be experiencing sexual violence of some kind," Koretsky says. "It's obviously an enormous societal problem. It's a problem that affects not just these women, but men on our college campuses as well. We decided to bring a series of speakers to campus who could address these issues from many different perspectives and engage the campus and broader community in a deep discussion."

Koretsky and Jane Baas, honors college associate dean, formed a committee to create a yearlong speaker series bringing nationally known scholars, artists and activists to campus.

"We think it's an issue that we can and really should be addressing on college campuses and we thought the best way to do that is to bring it out into the open and make everyone aware of the issues," Koretsky says.

Two additional speakers are set for the spring, while an appearance by noted feminist and activist Gloria Steinem is tentatively slated for September.

Anita Hill

For now, Hill's Feb. 3 presentation is sure to garner widespread attention. Hill currently is a professor of social policy, law and women's studies at Brandeis University's Heller School for Social Policy and Management. She was thrust into the national spotlight in 1991 when she accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, her supervisor at the U.S. Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, of sexual harassment.

The nation watched with rapt attention as Hill detailed the alleged harassment before a U.S. Senate committee. Thomas vehemently denied the allegations and eventually was confirmed to the high court.

Directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Freida Mock, "Anita: Speaking Truth to Power," has been praised by critics. With it, Hill broke her silence about the famous hearings.

Other upcoming presentations

March 3: Soraya Chemaly, 7 p.m., 2000 Schneider Hall, "Effecting Change through Social Media."

April 4: Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, 5:30 p.m., 1004 Richmond Center for Visual Arts, "Stop Telling Women to Smile" street art project.

Steinem heads the cast of speakers tentatively slated for fall. Others include Gail Griffin, formerly the Ann V. and Donald R. Parfet Distinguished Professor of English at Kalamazoo College and author of "The Events of October: Murder-Suicide on a Small Campus;" Jackson Katz, an American educator, filmmaker and author; and Wagatwe Wanjuki, a survivor, activist and writer.

Additional tie-ins with the series also are planned. Those include bringing in a Theatre of the Oppressed group to work with First Year Experience students, an honors college common read of the book "The Events of October," and presentations by WMU faculty and staff exploring gender and violence as part of the honors college's Lyceum Lecture Series at noon Wednesdays at the college.

About the series

The speaker series has found broad support across campus, with a long list of co-sponsors signing on. They include the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Fine Arts, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Haworth College of Business, University Center for the Humanities, Department of Spanish, Frostic School of Art, School of Music, School of Communication, Center for the Study of Ethics in Society and University Cultural Events Committee.

Funding for the spring portion of the series has been raised from on-campus sponsors.

"So really it's all been internal funding up until now," Koretsky says. "For the next phase, we'll be going out into the community and looking for individual and corporate sponsors who would like to help us with the fall series. I think it's very feasible that that will happen."

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