Hopkins rescinds Bill Cosby’s honorary degree, other area universities considering it

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Photo via The World Affairs Council of Philadelphia/ Wikimedia Commons

Johns Hopkins University has revoked an honorary degree from comedian Bill Cosby after he was convicted of sexual assault Thursday, and several Maryland public colleges, including the University of Baltimore and the University of Maryland, College Park, are mulling a similar move.

University System of Maryland spokesman Mike Lurie said in an emailed statement Friday that both schools, as well as the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, are “discussing requests to rescind honorary degrees previously awarded to Bill Cosby.” First, they will need to submit their requests to the university system’s Board of Regents, which “may consider [them] as early as its next scheduled meeting,” the statement said.

The board isn’t scheduled to meet again until June 22.

University of Maryland, College Park spokeswoman Katie Lawson said in an email that the school’s honorary degree committee “has taken this issue up immediately.”

On Thursday, hours after a jury convicted Cosby of three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault for drugging and molesting a woman at his Philadelphia-area home in 2004, Johns Hopkins University revoked an honorary degree it had awarded the famous comedian that same year.

Cosby has also been accused of drugging and molesting or raping dozens of women over a period spanning 1965 to 2008.

“At the time the honorary degree was conferred, the university was unaware of the allegations that Mr. Cosby sexually assaulted dozens of women over decades,” Hopkins spokesman Dennis O’Shea said in a statement Thursday, announcing the revocation.

“As a university, we stand in firm opposition to sexual assault, whether on our campuses or elsewhere,” the statement later read. “This decision underscores that opposition.”

A number of institutions, including Cal State, Brown, Marquette, Fordham, Bryant and Drexel universities and Goucher College, rescinded honorary degrees given to Cosby in 2015 as allegations began to pile up.

That year, a student group at Hopkins petitioned school officials to follow suit. The university launched a review, but did not rescind the honor until yesterday. As recently as February, school officials said they had no plans to rescind the honor.

UB gave Cosby an honorary doctorate after he spoke at the school’s commencement ceremony in 2013; UMD gave him one in 1992, and UMES did the same in 1998.

The Sun reports an East Baltimore community center run by St. Frances Academy has removed the Cosby surname from its title. Cosby and his wife, Camille, had donated $2 million to the center in 2012.

The school’s principal, Curtis Turner, told the paper they had considered removing the Cosby sponsorship in 2015, but opted not to because their primary relationship was with Camille, rather than Bill.

“But now that there is an actual conviction, we just can not have his name on the building,” Turner said.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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