Will VCU revoke the honorary degree it conferred on Bill Cosby? (Photo courtesy: ThinkStock Photos)
In 2008, Virginia Commonwealth University presented an honorary doctorate to Bill Cosby ahead of his speech at its 40th anniversary celebration. The comedian spoke before a crowd of 6,000 people at the Siegel Center, during which he pontificated on the importance of self-respect.
"This is a place of education, believe it or not," a Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter quoted Cosby telling the audience. College is not a place to "get drunk, pass out, take some pills and give each other disease,” Cosby said.
Cosby’s comments have a double context now, amid snowballing accusations of alleged drug-facilitated sexual assault and rape of more than three dozen women over the last five decades. The 78-year-old has never been charged or convicted of any crime, but has faced public backlash in recent months as more accusers have come forward. In early July, the Associated Press reported Cosby admitted in a 2005 deposition to attaining drugs to give to women with whom he wanted to have sex.
So when is the university going to revoke the honorary degree it bestowed upon “The Cosby Show” star?
“There’s no practical policy in place for revoking such a degree, ” writes Michael Porter, a university spokesperson, in an email.
VCU awarded Cosby the degree “based no a record of service and contribution to his field that was known at the time,” Porter says.
An Inside Higher Ed columnist in November 2014 called for VCU and 16 other universities that gave Cosby honorary doctorates to rescind them.
Over the weekend, Spelman College announced it would discontinue a professorship endowed by a Cosby donation. Both Temple University and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Cosby’s alma maters, have cut ties with him in the last year, too.