Anita Hill to speak at Rice on #MeToo and ending sexual harassment at work

March 25 lecture at the Baker Institute will include Q&A with audience members

Before Christine Blasey Ford, there was Anita Hill.

Nearly 30 years after she accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, breaking open public discourse about harassment in the workplace, the Brandeis University professor is coming to Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy March 25 to speak about the #MeToo movement and its impact on our political and cultural climate.

Anita Hill will speak at Rice University March 25.

Brandeis University professor Anita Hill will speak at Rice University March 25.

“Anita Hill is important not just for what she did and what she represented in the past but also what she’s doing in the present,” said Helena Michie, the director of Rice’s Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality (CSWGS). “She’s a real activist who has taken a leadership role in important organizations fighting sexual violence in the #MeToo era and is not frozen in time in 1991. She’s continued to do a lot of creative teaching, a lot of activism and has helped change the discourse about women in the workplace every day of her life since then. She is a living presence and a challenge to us all.”

Hill will speak for an hour beginning at 6:30 p.m., followed by a 30-minute Q&A session including questions from audience members. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

Hill’s lecture, “From Social Movement to Social Impact: Putting an End to Sexual Harassment in the Workplace,” is the third in this academic year’s Gray/Wawro Lecture Series in Gender, Health and Well-being hosted by CSWGS. The series spotlights leading scholars whose work fosters public conversation that can lead to a more just world. It also serves as the capstone to CSWGS’s yearlong “Understanding #MeToo” theme that has been integrated into much of its programming and curriculum.

“The energy and enthusiasm around the #MeToo moment is absolutely the right response, which requires a deeper history in order to move forward intelligently,” said Brian Riedel, associate director of CSWGS. “We are glad Professor Hill will help us to provide that deeper history and context.”

Just last year, Ford, a Palo Alto University professor and research psychologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Her testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee against Kavanaugh, who was eventually confirmed to the court, was a modern parallel to a historic episode 27 years prior: In 1991, Hill testified in front of an all-male Senate Judiciary Committee that Thomas, who had once been her supervisor at the U.S. Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, had routinely made unwanted advances and lewd sexual comments toward her.

Anita Hill is sworn in before testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. in this Oct. 11, 1991 file photo. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson, File)

Anita Hill is sworn in before testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. in this Oct. 11, 1991 file photo. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)

While Thomas was confirmed to his seat on the Supreme Court by a 52-48 vote, Hill’s testimony sparked widespread public discussion about sexual harassment. The hearing also drew broader attention to the lack of women in government, especially the Senate. The following year, four women won Senate seats, causing 1992 to be dubbed the Year of the Woman.

Today, Hill is a respected professor of social policy, law and women’s studies and continues to advocate for change, leading the Hollywood Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace. Meanwhile, Congress recently welcomed a record number of women into its 116th session.

“Anita Hill provides a very specific and unique perspective because of her background,” said Bridget Gorman, Rice’s dean of undergraduates. “I think if there is someone who can speak to where we were in the 90s and where we are today and what’s similar and what’s changed, I can think of few people better positioned to do that than Anita.”

Hill’s story has recently been told in two popular films. HBO’s 2016 biopic “Confirmation” starred Kerry Washington as Hill and Greg Kinnear as former Vice President Joe Biden, who led the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and interrogated Hill during her testimony; Biden later said that he owed Hill an apology for his treatment of her. The 2013 documentary “Anita,” which examined the consequences faced by a private citizen saying she acted out of her civic duty to speak truth to power, was recently screened at Rice and followed by a panel discussion among students, faculty and local leaders of organizations working to combat sexual assault.

“CSWGS inviting Ms. Hill to campus reinforces that Rice University is determined to give students, faculty and staff the ability to hear from persons who strengthen diversity, impart knowledge and shape paradigms,” said Allison Vogt, Rice’s associate dean of students and deputy Title IX coordinator. “More specifically, the university has taken enormous strides and acts as a leader in academia in supporting student care after interpersonal violence and the prevention of it. Asking Ms. Hill to join our conversation, while allowing her to expound on her years of service in the anti-harassment movement, is another step toward forming a community that expressly cares for one another.”

Anita Hill will speak at the Baker Institute March 25 at 6:30 p.m. following at reception at 6. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Registration will open at the end of the month at

About Katharine Shilcutt

Katharine Shilcutt is a media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.