Fordham University has revoked the honourary doctorate they bestowed on Bill Cosby in 2001. The Board of Trustees for the Jesuit College made the announcement on Thursday (September 24), noting that this is the first time they have revoked an honorary degree in the school's 174-year history.
Cosby was awarded the honorary doctorate in fine arts at a commencement ceremony in May of 2001 to recognize the role he played in breaking the colour barrier, not only on television but in pop culture, "thereby becoming an inspiration". When asked in April if Fordham University would consider rescinding Cosby's degree, communications director Robert Howe seemed to evade the question. His response didn't address the situation with Cosby at all, and simply pointed out that "Fordham has never rescinded an honourary degree" to the best of Howe's knowledge. Since Howe's comments in April the number of women who have said Cosby drugged and raped them has climbed to 50.
Fordham University's Board of Trustees unanimously voted to revoke the degree. For this to have been the case, the board members must have found Cosby's actions "to be both unambiguously dishonourable and have a deep impact." Fordham University President Joseph M. McShane released a letter explaining the board's decision, saying:
By his own admission, Mr. Cosby's sexual exploitation of women was premeditated and ongoing. 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.
While Cosby has not been charged criminally, he has been sued by victims in the past and has been ordered to give testimony in an upcoming molestation suit on October 9.