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Johns Hopkins University reviews honorary degree given to Bill Cosby
Cover photo courtesy of the Baltimore Sun, photographer André F. Chung

Comedian Bill Cosby was given an honorary degree from Johns Hopkins University in 2004, but now in light of the multiple allegations of sexual assault by Cosby, the university is under pressure to revoke the degree.  

Cosby has been the subject of sexual assault allegations since 2000, with more than 50 women accusing him of rape, sexual misconduct and drug facilitated sexual assault. Although Cosby has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged in a crime, a 2005 civil lawsuit deposition made public in July of 2015 revealed that Cosby gave women Quaaludes, a sedative prescription medication, before having sex with them.

A Hopkins’ campus organization, the Sexual Assault Resource Unit, requested that the school revoke the degree in a meeting with university officials and actress Lili Bernard, who has accused Cosby of assault and is a mother of a Hopkins student.

In a Facebook post the Sexual Assault Resource Unit said, “The gesture of repealing Cosby’s degree would show support for Lili and her family as part of the JHU community, and for student sexual assault survivors.” A representative for the university released a statement saying, “Johns Hopkins University is deeply troubled by the reports and allegations regarding Bill Cosby. As a university, Johns Hopkins has a set of values we seek to uphold and we are actively reviewing this matter.”

Cosby has been the recipient of over 60 honorary degrees and now these universities must face an ethical dilemma of whether or not to revoke said degrees. So far Goucher College, Fordham University, Marquette University, Brown University and the University of San Francisco have announced that they will revoke Cosby’s degrees. Others, however, are standing by policies that forbid the withdrawal of such degrees. Yale University is one such school, which said that it has never revoked any of its honorary degrees. Other universities say that they do not want to condemn someone who has never been legally convicted of a crime.

As Cosby could continue to face legal ramifications for these alleged assaults, this is sure to be a debate that universities who bestowed honorary degrees on him will have to face.

The New York Times and the Baltimore Sun contributed to this report.


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Johns Hopkins University reviews honorary degree given to Bill Cosby