Pitzer Invites Transgender Rights Activist to be Commencement Speaker

Pitzer
College’s class of 2015 selected Janet Mock, a prominent writer and transgender rights activist, as its 51st keynote
commencement speaker.

Janet
Mock is known for her
bestselling novel Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity,
Love and So Much More
and online social activism like the #Girlslikeus
movement.

Mock also serves as a managing editor at Marie Claire, won the Sylvia Rivera Law Project’s Activist Award,
and was included in the Advocate’s “40
Under 40” list in 2014.

Mock’s May 16 speech will not be her first appearance at the Claremont Colleges. She
spoke at Claremont McKenna College’s Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum Sept. 15, 2014 about breaking
free of gender stereotypes, gaining
support and admiration from students and faculty.

Over
the last few years, Mock has become a popular figure on campuses across the nation
like University of Southern California, where she delivered a commencement
speech honoring LGBT students.

The Pitzer senior
class voted to have Janet
Mock as the commencement speaker. Many campuses, however, rarely see the students’ top choice candidate become the
commencement speaker. The selection of commencement speaker has been entirely
delegated to students since Pitzer’s founding in 1963. 

More
than 20 candidates were contacted based on suggestions to the committee, which
consisted of any member of the Pitzer class of 2015 who attended the senior
class meetings to discuss the commencement speaker. A survey
was then sent to the senior class via email. Around 50 percent of the senior class
voted this year, according to a member of the selection committee.

At
the head of that selection committee was Senior Class Representative Alex
Cromidas PZ ’15. Cromidas
said that Mock is a valuable voice to be
heard on campus, and added that Mock had been at the forefront of the candidate
discussion since the spring of his junior year.

“Bringing
the identity of a trans woman of color who has the platform to speak at a
college commencement is a step in the right direction for Pitzer College and
colleges in general,” Cromidas said.

President Laura Skandera Trombley expressed a similar sentiment in an email to TSL.

“She
is an important voice for self-determination and transgender rights, and her
work fits perfectly with our institutional value of social responsibility,”
Trombley wrote.

Keck Graduate Institute chemistry professor Nancy Williams HM ’95 said that the intersectional perspective
makes Mock an exciting choice, citing Mock’s background as a mixed-race transgender woman, as well as a sex worker, professional and survivor of childhood sexual assault.

“A
lot of individuals at the Claremont Colleges think of people in terms of one
issue … I
think Janet Mock is an example of someone whose experiences don’t make sense
unless you’ve seen the whole of Janet Mock’s story,” Williams said. “I think that makes her not
just another transgender activist.”

Jenifer
Renick PZ ’15, a member of the selection committee, said that
Mock’s perspective will allow her to touch on many important issues
beyond transgender activism.

The
51st commencement ceremony will take place May 16 at 10 a.m.
Tickets are not required for the event, and the ceremony, including Mock’s
speech, will be streamed live on the college’s website. 

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