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Oberlin College Rips Up Bill Cosby’s Honorary Degree

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/PHELAN M. EBENHACK, FILE
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/PHELAN M. EBENHACK, FILE

Oberlin College is rescinding the honorary degree it gave to Bill Cosby in 2010, the school announced Friday.

“Mr. Cosby’s admitted actions are not congruent with Oberlin College’s commitment to supporting survivors of sexualized violence, as reflected in its sexual misconduct policy, and do not epitomize the high standards Oberlin considers in awarding honorary degrees,” college President Marvin Krislov said in a press release, apparently referring to a 2005 deposition unsealed earlier this year in which Cosby admitted to giving women Quaaludes. For that reason, Krislov said, the school’s board voted on December 4 to take back a doctorate of humanities Cosby received five years ago.

The decision is something of a reversal for the small Midwestern school famous for academic rigor and leftist politics.

The trustees of the Ohio liberal arts college had rejected a call to revoke Cosby’s degree just two months earlier. Non-faculty staffers at the school had written to the board requesting the action, but were denied. “While the Board ultimately declined to take action at this time, it will continue to monitor the situation closely,” board chair Clyde McGregor wrote of the board’s October meeting.

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Cosby collected a litany of honorary degrees from schools all around the country. A growing number of those schools are tearing them up now. Boston University, Occidental College, Swarthmore College, John Jay College, Fordham University, Brown University, Drexel University, Baylor University, and many others have taken similar action. Several other schools have declined to do so thus far, either citing policy against rescinding honorary degrees or saying the matter remained under consideration.

Dozens of women have accused Cosby of sexual assault by way of sedative drugs over the years. Their assertions were largely ignored for a decade but have boiled over again in the past year, thanks in large part to comedian Hannibal Burress.

In July, the New York Times published excerpts of a deposition Cosby gave in 2005 as part of a lawsuit by Andrea Constand, one of more than 50 alleged Cosby victims who say he raped them in the 1960s and ’70s. Cosby says in the deposition that he had seven different prescriptions for Quaalude, a powerful sedative made familiar to movie audiences in a far less harrowing context by 2014’s The Wolf of Wall Street.

Cosby has described it as a popular party drug in those days, and denies using it to incapacitate women and violate them. He has never been charged with a crime in relation to any of the allegations. But the deposition has served to corroborate the central claim common to Cosby rape accusations — that he drugged young women repeatedly — for many observers.

The once-beloved comic and actor has continued to deny all rape allegations against him. At the start of this week, he countersued seven of his accusers for what his lawyers call character assassination.