Saturday, July 20, 2024

William & Mary rescinds Bill Cosby’s honorary degree, cites ‘abhorrent conduct’

Bill Cosby. (WYDaily/ Courtesy Flickr)
Bill Cosby. (WYDaily/ Courtesy Flickr)

WILLIAMSBURG — The William & Mary Board of Visitors on Friday rescinded an honorary degree awarded to comedian Bill Cosby more than two decades ago.

The star of the long-running “The Cosby Show,” who has been accused of drugging and sexually assaulting dozens of women during a career spanning almost 60 years, was granted an honorary Master of Arts degree on May 16, 1993, when he was the speaker at that year’s commencement.

Also receiving honorary degrees that year were renowned anthropologist Jane Goodall, former Virginia state Sen. Hunter B. Andrews and William Styron, the Newport News native who wrote “Sophie’s Choice,” “The Confessions of Nat Turner” and “Lie Down in Darkness,” among other works.

In April, Cosby, 81, was convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, in connection with a 2004 incident involving a former staff member of the Temple University women’s basketball team. He is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

In its decree, W&M’s Board of Visitors said Cosby exhibited “abhorrent conduct antithetical to our university’s core values.”

In addition to W&M, Cosby also has received honorary degrees from Hampton University, Old Dominion University and Virginia Commonwealth University. Of those universities, only W&M has rescinded its honorary degree.

Cosby’s is the first honorary degree rescinded by W&M. Three years ago,  Provost Michael R. Halleran told The Flat Hat that the university had no intention of taking back Cosby’s degree.

“We’ve never rescinded a degree. We don’t intend to,” Halleran told The Flat Hat. “It’s very messy what would be the criteria [for removal]. We gave it to him in ’93. Rescinding I don’t think is a good option.”

W&M statement

Here is the complete statement from the William & Mary Board of Visitors:

The William & Mary Board of Visitors voted today to rescind the honorary Master of Arts degree awarded to Bill Cosby in 1993. Since that degree was bestowed, information came to light and was confirmed that Mr. Cosby engaged in abhorrent conduct antithetical to our university’s core values. Mr. Cosby was afforded due process and has now been criminally convicted in a court of law.

The Board of Visitors, in conjunction with the university administration, is committed to both the elimination of sexual violence and the adherence to due process. We affirm that commitment with our action today.

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