Notre Dame University has issued a statement saying that there are “no plans” to revoke the honorary degree given to disgraced comedian Bill Cosby in light of the damning accusations of sexual assault levied against him by upwards of 40 women and the release of Cosby’s own sworn testimony that he drugged women before engaging in extramarital sex with them, according to Margaret Fosmoe of the South Bend Tribune.
Cosby delivered the commencement speech and was bestowed the honorary degree by the university 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.”
As Doug Criss of CNN reports, earlier this week, Fordham University in New York and Marquette University in Wisconsin rescinded honorary degrees each had previously bestowed upon Cosby. It is the first time either university has rescinded an honorary degree.
Fordham University released a statement saying the Jesuit university could “no longer stand behind” the honorary degree given to Cosby in 2001, citing Cosby’s own admission that he gave drugs to women he wanted to have sex with in a deposition recently unsealed for the public, as well as the University’s belief that Cosby engaged in a “longtime strategy” of verbally attacking his accusers.
“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.”
Similarly, Marquette University President Michael R. Lovell and Provost Daniel Myers released a statement confirming that the school’s had overwhelmingly agreed to rescind the honorary degree granted to Cosby in 2013 due to the actions to which Cosby admitted in the deposition.
“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.”
Cosby’s lawyer, John Schmitt, defended the 78-year-old comedian in a strongly written letter to Fordham University’s president Rev. Joseph McShane taking the school to task for its statement and maintaining Cosby’s innocence.
“The statement issued by the university was so irresponsible as to shock the conscience. 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. Mr. Cosby has been convicted of no crime and has steadfastly maintained his innocence, and yet, the trustees felt entitled to sit in judgment and to announce that judgment with rhetorical flourish that is itself beyond the pale and worthy of condemnation.”
Central State University in Ohio and Spelman College in Georgia, each have rescinded honors given toward Cosby; the former removing Cosby’s name from a building that had been named in his honor, and the latter terminating a professorship endowed by Cosby and his wife, Camille.
[Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for New York Comedy Festival]