Johns Hopkins News Letter, Oct 2015

JHU news-letter-masthead

Univ. reviews Cosby’s honorary degree

News & Features Editor

In light of the numerous sexual assault allegations against actor and comedian Bill Cosby, the University is currently deliberating whether to rescind the honorary degree given to Cosby in 2004 at commencement.

More than ten schools, including Brown University, Fordham University and Goucher College, have already rescinded the honorary degrees they awarded Cosby. He still holds over 40 degrees from other institutions.

Hopkins parent Lili Bernard, an alleged victim of Cosby, met with Secretary of the Board of Trustees Maureen Marsh and Interim Vice President and General Counsel Paul Pineau asking for Cosby’s degree to be rescinded.

Bernard, who is an artist and actor, guest-starred on The Cosby Show in the early 1990s. She alleges that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her and made threats against her life.

Seven members of the Sexual Assault Resource Unit (SARU) also attended the meeting.

“The gesture of repealing Cosby’s degree would show support for Lili and her family as part of the JHU community, and for student sexual assault survivors. It would also demonstrate that JHU is serious about correcting their negative history of failing to adequately respond to sexual assault violations. We look forward to JHU making the right decision,” reads a post on SARU’s Facebook page.

According to SARU, Bernard’s talent agent at the time of the alleged assault and a crew member on The Cosby Show attended the meeting through video chat to verify Bernard’s story.

According to Jason Kravitz, director of Strategic Communications, the University is currently deciding whether to rescind the degree.

“Johns Hopkins University is deeply troubled by the reports and allegations regarding Bill Cosby. As a university, Johns Hopkins has a set of standards we seek to uphold and we are actively reviewing this matter,” Kravitz wrote in an email to The News-Letter.

SARU is encouraging students to email Pineau to give their opinions as to whether Cosby’s degree should be rescinded.

According to Kravitz, Hopkins is open to listening to student input.

“We always welcome and take into account input from members of our community on important issues such as this one,” Kravitz wrote.

Sophomore Richard Hommel thinks Cosby’s degree should be rescinded.

“Johns Hopkins is very accredited, and it’s an international institution. I just don’t think we should endorse [Cosby] who’s had all these accusations,” Hommel said.

He said the fact that one of Cosby’s alleged victims is a Hopkins parent should further incentivize the University to rescind the degree.

“[Since] Johns Hopkins has definitely a personal connection to the case, [I think] that we should be all for rescinding it,” Hommel said.

SARU also hopes to take the conversation beyond Hopkins.

“In the coming weeks, SARU will be reaching out to other higher learning institutions that have bestowed honorary degrees to Bill Cosby. Each institution that repeals Cosby’s honorary degrees serves to further unravel his power,” a post on SARU’s Facebook page states.

Several women have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct and drugging.