On Wednesday, the University of Connecticut joined the group of colleges and universities that have revoked honorary degrees conferred upon stand-up comedian and actor Bill Cosby following a unanimous vote by its board of trustees. Yale, however, has not announced plans to do the same, even though community members have called for rescinding Cosby’s 2003 honorary degree since allegations of serial sexual assault against the comedian became widely known in 2014.
Cosby has been awarded with honorary degrees from almost 60 colleges and universities, but Brown University, George Washington University, Fordham University, Boston University and now UConn are among those that have taken that honor back. In a letter to the board of trustees, UConn Provost Mun Choi underscored that the undergraduate student government, the university senate representing faculty, staff and students as well as the administration have all recommended revoking Cosby’s honorary degree in the past few months. The university respects Cosby’s right to a fair trial, but the behavior that he has admitted to in sworn testimony is incongruent with UConn’s values, Choi wrote.
“The University of Connecticut, and all institutions of higher education, must work diligently to prevent sexual assault and to support and care for victims,” Choi wrote in the memo. “Mr. Cosby has admitted to conduct that is contrary to the values of the University of Connecticut. The University would not have awarded an Honorary Degree to Mr. Cosby if the full breadth of his past actions were known at the time of conferral.”
This decision marks the first time UConn has revoked an honorary degree.
More than 50 women have accused Cosby of raping and sexual assaulting them over the span of forty plus years. Their allegations became widely circulated when a clip of comedian Hannibal Buress referencing Cosby’s sexual misconduct went viral in late 2014.
Yet despite the recent announcement made by its Connecticut neighbor, Yale has remained silent on the topic.
“Each institution makes its own decision on these matters,” University Spokesperson Tom Conroy told the News. “There is nothing new to report regarding Yale.”
According to Conroy, Yale has never revoked an honorary degree — decisions to do so rest with the Yale Corporation.
Cosby currently faces criminal charges and is scheduled to go to trial this July.