In wake of the sexual allegations made against Bill Cosby by more than 40 women, Marquette University in Wisconsin and Fordham University in New York have both decided to pull the honorary degrees they bestowed to the comedian years ago. Fordham presented Cosby with an honorary doctorate of fine arts degree in 2001, while Marquette granted Cosby an honorary doctor of letters when he was the commencement speaker at the school’s graduation in 2013.
Both colleges released statements explaining their decisions, reports CNN. Fordham, which had never before rescinded an honorary degree, described such a decision would be due to a recipient’s actions being “both unambiguously dishonorable and have a deep impact.” The vote was made unanimously by the university’s Board of Trustees. “By his own admission, Mr. Cosby’s sexual exploitation of women was premeditated and ongoing,” the statement read. “Equally appalling is his longtime strategy of denigrating the reputations of women who accused him of such actions. That Mr. Cosby was willing to drug and rape women for his sexual gratification, and further damage those same women’s reputations and careers to obscure his guilt, hurt not only his victims, but all women, and is beyond the pale.”
Marquette University described campus leaders and faculty members showing support for their decision. “By his own admission, Mr. Cosby engaged in behaviors that go entirely against our university’s mission and the Guiding Values we have worked so hard to instill on our campus,” the statement read. “Every day, we live these values by challenging our students to integrate knowledge and faith into their real-life decisions in ways that will shape their lives. With those values in mind, let us all remember that the foundations on which our great university was built remain as important today as ever.”
Cosby’s top lawyer, John Schmitt, wrote an angry letter to Fordham’s university president in response to the decision. “The statement issued by the university was so irresponsible as to shock the conscience,” Schmitt wrote. “The statement grossly mischaracterizes both Mr. Cosby’s actions and his deposition testimony, in language more befitting a tabloid journal rather than a respected institution of higher learning.”
It looks like Cosby can keep one of his honors, at least for now. The University of Notre Dame has no plans to revoke the honorary degree given to Cosby in 1990. “Notre Dame has never in its history acted retroactively to rescind an honorary degree previously awarded to individuals for achievements recognized at those times. We have no plans to do so now,” Notre Dame spokesman Paul Browne told the South Bend Tribune.
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