Temple University has so far been the university most affected by the Bill Cosby scandal. Prior to being convicted of sexual assault in 2018, Temple was considered too slow to revoke Cosby’s honors. He only acted after his conviction, saying: “In 1991, on the basis of his professional achievements, Temple awarded an honorary degree to William Cosby. Yesterday Dr. Cosby was convicted by a jury of the crime of aggravated sexual assault. The Temple University Board of Trustees accepted the university’s recommendation to revoke the honorary degree. “
When Temple considered the matter, he said Patrick J. O’Connor, then chairman of the board, had not participated in the discussion. That’s because he was previously a lawyer for Cosby. And Cosby himself was a member of the Temple board until his resignation in 2014. And of course Cosby is a former Temple student and longtime donor.
The victim in this case, Andrea Constand, was previously the director of operations for the Temple women’s basketball team. She met Cosby on several occasions between 2001 and 2004, and she said Cosby contacted her at her office to discuss college issues.
So how was Howard University affected by the scandal?
It all started with apparent success for the university. In May, the university appointed Phylicia Rashad Dean of its College of Fine Arts, effective July 1, 2021.
“It is an honor to welcome one of Howard’s acclaimed daughters back to the alma mater. In this full loop moment, Ms Phylicia Rashad will take on the training and skills she honed as a student at Howard and developed into an exceptional performing career, and she will share these pearls of wisdom. with the next generation of College of Fine Arts students. Her passion for the arts and student achievement make her an ideal fit for this role, ”said President Anthony K. Wutoh at the time.
Rashad is perhaps best known for playing Clair Huxtable, the fictional wife of Cliff Huxtable, the wise and lovable father of The Cosby Show, but she has also worked in film and on stage, winning accolades and numerous awards for her performances. His hiring was seen as a coup for Howard.
Then last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that Cosby’s 2018 conviction was invalid and ordered his release from prison. The ruling wasn’t because the court didn’t believe Constand or the other women who accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them. The court noted that a former prosecutor in the case, Bruce L. Castor Jr., found “insufficient” evidence to pursue the case. But Castor encouraged Cosby to testify in a civil case brought by Constand. Cosby testified that he gave qualifications to the women he sued for sex. This testimony was cited – inappropriately, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled – during his trial on charges brought by Castor’s successors.
Rashad tweeted on the day the ruling was handed down: “FINALLY !!!! A terrible wrong is being righted – a miscarriage of justice is corrected!”
Since then, Howard’s students and alumni have lobbied for her to become dean. On Twitter, the hashtag is #ByePhylicia.
Rashad apologized twice and Cosby also spoke up, issuing a statement on July 4 defending Rashad’s original statement.
First (the same day Rashad weighed in on Cosby’s release from prison), Rashad posted this tweet (and deleted the original).
It didn’t do much to make the controversy go away, and Howard released a statement making it clear that his first tweet was not the college’s position.
Then on Friday Rashad sent out another statement addressed to Howard’s students and parents.
“This week I tweeted a statement that has hurt so many people – both at large and within the Howard community. I offer my sincere apologies,” she wrote . “I’m sorry. I intend to earn your trust and forgiveness.
“My remarks were in no way directed at survivors of sexual assault. I vehemently oppose sexual violence, find no excuse for such behavior, and I know Howard University has a policy. of zero tolerance towards interpersonal violence… Over the next few weeks, I plan to engage in active listening and participate in trainings to not only strengthen academic protocol and conduct, but also how I can become a more ally. strong survivors of sexual assault.
While those remarks were more sorry than her first comment on the reaction to her support for Cosby’s release, critics – including many of Howard’s students or alumni – continued to speak out against her on social media.
An exception is Cosby’s statement. The following quotes are verbatim from this statement to Deadline.
“Howard University, you have to support free speech (Ms. Rashad), which is taught or supposed to be taught every day at this renowned law school, which resides on your campus,” Cosby said.
“These mainstream media are the insurgents, who stormed the Capitol. These same media insurgents are trying to demolish the Constitution of this United States of America on this Independence Day. No technicality – this is a violation of her rights and we the people support Ms Phylicia Rashad. “
Critics of Rashad and Howard University continue.
Crystal Marie, a former student of Howard, noted in a widely shared essay in The root last week that this is not the first time that Rashad has defended Cosby. Marie reminded readers that in a 2015 interview, Rashad said, “Forget about these women. What you are seeing is the destruction of an inheritance. And I think it’s orchestrated. I don’t know why or who does it, but that’s the legacy. And it’s a heritage that’s so important to the culture. “
Marie wrote that she gasped in disappointment when she read Rashad’s more recent defense from Cosby.
“My next thoughts were with the students, namely the women of Howard University, many of whom were probably happy to call her dean. Did their faces drop when they saw their leader celebrating a man who himself admitted to drugging women with prescription drugs? Was she? one less person they could count on for support if they were assaulted on their university campus, a place where many young women experience sexual violence for the first time? “
Meredith D. Clark, assistant professor of media studies at the University of Virginia, said Rashad’s initial reaction to Cosby’s release showed “she was untrustworthy.” His apology was predictable, while his original tweet reflected his point of view, Clark said.
Clark said she could understand why a college would want to hire an acclaimed actress to run their art school.
“But I would like someone who has also had a higher education,” she said. “And she probably didn’t.”
If a student were to consider telling Rashad about a sexual assault on campus, she would have real reason to doubt Rashad would do the right thing, Clark said.
“She’s ready to put her relationship [with Cosby] on top of what happened, “Clark said.” I don’t think it was a good hire. “