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Five universities revoke Bill Cosby's honorary degrees after sexual assault conviction

'The university will not tolerate sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking or sexual harassment,' Carnegie Mellon says

Emily Shugerman
New York
Saturday 28 April 2018 15:51 BST
Cosby leaves the courthouse after he was found guilty of drugging and molesting a woman
Cosby leaves the courthouse after he was found guilty of drugging and molesting a woman (AP)

Five universities, including his alma mater, have rescinded comedian Bill Cosby’s honorary degrees in the wake of his sexual assault conviction.

“As a university, we stand in firm opposition to sexual assault, whether on our campuses or elsewhere,” said Johns Hopkins University spokesman Dennis O’Shea said in a statement. “This decision underscores that opposition.”

“The university will not tolerate sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking or sexual harassment,” added Carnegie Mellon in an unsigned statement. “These acts are against the law and violate our core values.”

Notre Dame, Boston College, and even Cosby’s alma mater Temple University have all revoked their honorary degrees as well.

The president of Wesleyan University said he planned to ask the board of trustees to revoke Cosby’s degree. A Yale spokesman said the university would review its long-standing practice of not rescinding such awards.

“The conduct of which Cosby was convicted today is profoundly disturbing and deeply contrary to the mission of Yale and our expectations for behaviour,” spokesman Tom Conroy told the Yale Daily News.

Bill Cosby leaves court after being charged with three counts of indecent assault

Cosby was convicted this week of sexually assaulting former basketball player Andrea Constand in 2004. Ms Constand was the women’s basketball programme director at Temple at the time, and said in court that she went to Cosby’s house that night seeking career advice.

Temple Board of Trustees Chairman Patrick O’Connor previously represented Cosby when he first faced allegations of sexual assault. He recused himself from discussions on rescinding the honorary degree, according to the Associated Press.

More than 50 other women have accused Cosby of sexually assaulting them, though Ms Constand is the first to have stood trial. The actor has denied all sexual misconduct allegations against him.

Notre Dame acknowledged these allegations in a statement on Thursday.

“While certainly troubled by serious, public accusations made by multiple women against Cosby, the university elected to wait until due process had been afforded the accused, and a verdict delivered, before rescinding the honour,” university president John I Jenkins said.

Cosby has been awarded nearly 60 honorary degrees from different colleges over the course of his career, according to Inside Higher Ed. Such academic degrees are generally given to professionals who did not attend the institution, to recognise significant contributions to a field.

More than a dozen universities – including Ohio State, Fordham, and Marquette – revoked Cosby’s honorary degrees before the start of the trial.

Cosby now faces up to 30 years in jail for three counts of aggravated indecent assault. His attorneys have said they will appeal the verdict.

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