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Anita Hill to give commencement address at Wesleyan

Anita Hill (HS) is speaking at Wesleyan University at the school’s commencement in May instead of Daniel Handler, more commonly known by his pen name Lemony Snicket, due to accusations of sexually inappropriate conduct, according to the Associated Press.

Handler, the author of the well-known children’s books “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” graduated from Wesleyan in 1992. Wesleyan President Michael Roth announced that Handler would step down as commencement speaker Thursday, March 1, according to the Wesleyan Argus, a Wesleyan student newspaper.

Originally, Hill, Handler and Joshua Boger, a scientist and Wesleyan board of trustees member, were scheduled to receive honorary degrees for their respective works. Due to the allegations, however, Hill will be giving the 186th commencement address, according to the Argus.

Hill was quoted in the Argus as saying, “President Roth invited me to deliver Commencement remarks and I was honored to accept the invitation.” She continued, “I’m looking forward to what I know is an important day for all graduates, myself included.”

Roth emailed the Wesleyan student body about the change, saying “Daniel Handler has chosen to withdraw as Wesleyan’s Commencement speaker this May. We’ve agreed that the focus of the event should be on the Class of 2018, their families and the celebration of graduation. I’m pleased to share that Anita Hill has graciously agreed to deliver the Commencement address.” A copy of the email was obtained by The Hoot.

The accusations against Handler came from Kate Messner, a children’s book author, and were first reported by the Pacific Standard. According to a blog post authored by Messner, she and Handler were on their way to the Rhode Island Children’s Festival of Books and Authors when the first incident of inappropriate conduct occurred.

After another person on the bus heading to the festival asked if Messner lived in the Midwest, Handler shouted, “Are you a virgin, too?!” According to Messner’s account, later while people were being introduced at a hotel, Handler also stated, “These children’s book events always turn into orgies!”

Messner’s accusations have been followed by a number of women who work in children’s literature who have also described inappropriate sexual comments made to and about them by Handler, according the the Pacific Standard’s reporting.

Handler responded to the accusations on a blog post on the same forum as Messner’s original post, apologizing and claiming an understanding of the subject, saying that he is a survivor of sexual violence himself.

Handler continued, “I apologize for any gaps in conversation, as sincerely as I apologize for any lapses in taste. I do not find comments sections the ideal place to discuss incidents in which my memories, and the memories of others who were with me, sometimes differ. And I believe the people who are talking. I am listening and willing to listen; I am learning and willing to learn.”

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