The Bill Cosby scandal has gotten renewed attention this week—but not because a new legal document has surfaced. Rather, news outlets are reporting that, as of Tuesday, several well-known universities—Brown, Fordham, and Marquette—have rescinded the honorary degrees they had previously bestowed on him. And that list is likely to grow.
The embattled celebrity has received honorary degrees from more than a dozen colleges and universities, many of them Ivy League or otherwise elite institutions with high-stakes reputations to maintain. In fact, the comedian and former Cosby Show star, who’s been accused of drugging and molesting women—and in a recently published 2005 deposition admitted to doing so—received one of those accolades just last year, when Boston University granted him a Doctorate of Humane Letters.
Such revocations are a big deal in the higher-ed world, if only because they’re so rare. Aside from Cosby, just a handful of prominent people have had their degrees taken away; they include the controversial Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who a few years ago became the first international figure to see his degrees revoked. Christina Paxson, Brown’s president, said in a campus-wide email on Monday that the rescission of Cosby’s degree was a result of his not living up to the institutional values on which it was based, such as “honesty, fair play, love of family, and respect for humanity.” “The conduct that Mr. Cosby has acknowledged is wholly inconsistent with the behavior we expect of any individual associated with Brown,” she wrote. “It is particularly troubling as our university community continues to confront the very real challenges of sexual violence on our campus and in society at large.”