As allegations that comedian Bill Cosby serially sexually assaulted women proliferate, some inside and outside the Yale community have called on the University to rescind Cosby’s honorary Yale degree.
In an editorial posted on Inside Higher Ed this morning, Jonathan Beecher Field, an associate professor of English at Clemson University, called on 17 colleges and universities — including Yale — to rescind honorary degrees granted to Cosby.
“It’s time for these colleges to rescind the honors they gave to Cosby, who, it grows clearer by the day, has engaged in a lifelong pattern of sexual abuse and exploitation,” Field wrote.
On Tuesday evening, Marissa Medansky ’15, a former Opinion editor for the News, started an online petition calling on University President Peter Salovey to rescind Cosby’s honorary doctorate, which was awarded in 2003. As of 12:00 p.m. on Wednesday, approximately 130 students, faculty, staff and alumni had signed the petition.
“If Yale can’t do the right thing in this black-and-white instance, how can we have faith that the University will adjudicate more ambiguous cases of assault and harassment in goodwill?” Medansky said.
Reached by email, Field said he has been dismayed by the nature of campus rape culture, one that has been covered widely in recent weeks, namely in a Rolling Stone article about a specific rape that occurred at the University of Virginia. Field said that act of rescinding a degree is purely symbolic, but that the gesture would be a way for Yale to “communicate that the voices of rape victims matter.”