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Prof. Roberts to deliver keynote address at Rutgers-Newark commencement and receive honorary degree

February 26, 2019

Rutgers University-Newark has announced that University of Pennsylvania Law School professor Dorothy Roberts will deliver the keynote address at the university’s 2019 commencement ceremony. Roberts is the George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology and the Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights at Penn. She will also receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Rutgers.

“This is a well-deserved honor for Professor Roberts, whose work has been critical to increasing our understanding of some of the most significant issues in contemporary society,” said Ted Ruger, Dean of the Law School and Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law. “I’m sure the wisdom and insight she will share with the Rutgers-Newark community will enrich the university’s new graduates as they launch into the world.”

A committee of Rutgers-Newark students, faculty, and staff selected Roberts on the basis of her work as an interdisciplinary scholar, activist, and teacher whose pursuit of social justice and insights into complex questions of race, gender, and the law have made her renowned throughout the academy and the wider world. Roberts began her law teaching career at Rutgers Law School in Newark, where she taught for a decade before moving to Northwestern Law School, and then on to Penn Law. At Penn, Roberts is the founding director of the Penn Program on Race, Science & Society in the Center for Africana Studies.

According to a press release from Rutgers announcing Roberts’s selection, Rutgers-Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor said the following when advancing the nomination to the Rutgers University Board of Governors: “Dorothy Roberts is one of the nation’s leading voices striving to expunge deeply embedded discriminatory ideas and practices from the American social fabric, embodying principles that Rutgers University – Newark holds most dear as an institution that is not just diverse, but committed to leveraging our diversity as a partner in lifting up our community, our nation, and our world, especially by lifting up its people.”

Throughout her career, Roberts’s pathbreaking work in law and public policy has focused on urgent contemporary issues in health, social justice, and bioethics, especially as they impact the lives of women, children and African-Americans. Roberts’s landmark first book, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty, was recently highlighted by the Chronicle of Higher Education as one of the most influential books of the last 20 years.

“I’m deeply honored to have been selected by Rutgers University-Newark to give the commencement address and receive an honorary degree, especially because I began my academic career there,” said Roberts. “It means a lot to me to be recognized for the contributions my scholarship, teaching, and activism have made to advancing social justice.” 

The Rutgers-Newark commencement ceremony will take place on May 22 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.