Hill faces chair fight

January 5, 1996

Law professor Anita Hill, still a deeply controversial figure four years after her claims that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her transfixed the nation, is to have a university professorship named after her.

The state regents of the University of Oklahoma, where Professor Hill teaches, has approved what is set to be a $500,000 endowment for the Anita Faye Hill Professorship of Law to research sexual harassment and women's rights.

Right-wing activists across the country have vilified Professor Hill since she went public with her sensational allegations against Thomas, a conservative black judge named to the Supreme Court by president George Bush during his confirmation hearings. They have vowed to block her appointment to the professorship, for which she is a likely candidate, and have hinted they will try to have the law school closed.

The professorship was one of 16 approved by the regents of Oklahoma's university system in a 5-3 vote. The regents approved a $250,000 matching grant to meet the $250,000 already raised by groups supporting Professor Hill.

The governing board split on the issue along political lines, with the no votes from the three regents appointed by Oklahoma's current Republican governor, Frank Keating. Professor Hill's opponents, who in a now familiar refrain accused her of lying and character assassination, threatened to push for a vote in the state legislature to cut off the law school's funding.

Conservative organiser E. Z. Million told the Dallas Morning News: "That is one way to keep her from having the professorship. If we could get it to a statewide vote, I don't think there's any question how that vote would go."

Despite Professor Hill's testimony about the alleged conduct of her former boss, Justice Thomas was confirmed and sits on the nine-member Supreme Court until he dies or chooses to retire.

Professor Hill has lobbied to turn sexual harassment at work into a national issue, prompting a drastic revision in employment codes and attitudes in industry and academia.

"I still hear from women who have lost their homes and their jobs, who have difficulty eating and sleeping because of what they are going through," she told students in a recent speech at the California State University campus at Fresno. "You will be the ones who overcome this. The challenge is yours."

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