Two years after Bill Cosby was stripped of scores of honors following a rush of sex-assault accusations, he lost another one on Friday when leaders of the University of Missouri-Columbia voted to revoke his honorary degree.
The move by the university’s Board of Curators, at the urging of staff and faculty leaders, follows similar moves made by an estimated 20-to 25 schools, according to a statement issued by the university. System President Mun Choi also urged revocation, citing allegations that Cosby had sexually assaulted women.
“Honorary degrees throughout the University of Missouri System are reserved for those who have ascended to the pinnacle of their fields while conducting themselves consistent with the university’s core values,” the statement said. “The evidence presented during the recent criminal trial indicated that (Cosby) engaged in behavior that is in direct conflict with the core values of the University of Missouri.”
Cosby was tried in Pennsylvania on three counts of aggravated indecent sexual assault stemming from an encounter with a former Temple University basketball official at his home outside Philadelphia in 2004. After an 11-day trial, including six days of testimony and 52 hours of deliberations over five days, the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict and a mistrial was declared on June 17. Prosecutors immediately announced they would seek to retry Cosby.
During the trial, Cosby’s own words in a police interview and a civil deposition detailed his multiple affairs and sexual behavior with young women he met throughout his Hollywood career, despite his image as a beloved comedian and “America’s Dad.”
Starting in October 2014, Cosby has been accused by five-dozen women of drugging and/or raping them in episodes dating back to the mid-1960s. Only one of those accusations reached a criminal court but the others helped permanently stain Cosby’s reputation and led to the July 2015 release of a 10-year-old civil deposition in which he admitted to obtaining drugs to give to women he sought for sex.
After that, he was stripped of honorary degrees and removed or forced to resign from boards of trustees, including from Temple, his alma mater. His name has been removed from buildings and scholarships, which had been the chief focus of his longstanding philanthropy.
Spelman College, the historically black college in Atlanta with strong ties to Cosby for decades, dropped its endowed professorship with the comedian in the wake of the damaging revelations. The prestigious visiting-scholar endowment was created in 1988 when the school received a $20 million donation from Cosby and his wife of 53 years, Camille. It was the single largest donation ever given to a historically black college or university.
But Cosby’s history of donations to colleges and universities ended up not helping him once the sex scandal pushed him off his Hollywood pedestal. And it didn’t help him in December 2015, when prosecutors in suburban Philadelphia revived a long-abandoned criminal case against Cosby and filed charges just before the state’s statute of limitations was to expire.
The causes of the mistrial are not yet clear and may never be known, given confusing reports from unnamed jurors about how the jury supposedly voted and what issues prevented a unanimous verdict.
Meanwhile, Cosby’s spokesman announced Thursday that he plans a series of town halls this summer to educate young people, especially athletes, about sexual assault and how to avoid behavior that could lead to accusations.
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