MHours after Bill Cosby’s wife on TV, Phylicia Rashad, celebrated her former co-star’s release from prison, she tried to reconsider her happy statement following a tidal wave reaction.
Cosby, 83, was released from a Pennsylvania prison on Wednesday, serving just three years of his three to 10 year sentence for sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004. The state Supreme Court suddenly overturned the 2018 conviction from disgraced comedy for legal technicality – he found that the prosecutor could not go back on his predecessor’s declaration not to indict him.
Rashad, who played Clair Huxtable alongside Cosby for eight seasons on The Cosby Show, was delighted. “FINALLY !!!! A terrible wrong is being righted – a miscarriage of justice is corrected,” she not only tweeted, but shared on Instagram.
It didn’t go well for Rashad, who was chosen in May by Howard University to be its new dean of the College of Fine Arts, recently renamed in honor of the late actor and former student Chadwick Boseman.
The 73-year-old was immediately criticized, as people raised the question of how students could feel comfortable reporting cases of sexual assault to a dean who had rejoiced over the release of an alleged serial predator who had 60 wives come forward publicly to accuse him of assault?
Howard’s alumni and others began asking the university to fire Rashad, using the hashtag #ByePhylicia. In an attempt to limit the damage, she turned off her comments.
“I fully support survivors of sexual assault who come forward”, Rashad conceded. “My message was by no means intended to be oblivious to their truth. Personally, I know from my friends and family that such abuse has lifelong residual effects. My most sincere wish is healing.
Still, Rashad’s initial tweet in favor of Cosby remained in effect, although people pointed out that if she really meant what she was saying, it would be deleted. Of course, she had already made her position on Cosby clear in 2015. “Forget about these women,” she said, dismissing accusations from models Janice Dickinson and Beverly Johnson. “What you are seeing is the destruction of an inheritance. And I think it’s orchestrated.
Howard remained silent on the brewing controversy until Wednesday night, issuing a broadly weak and backhanded response, saying “the personal positions of university leaders do not reflect the policies of Howard University.”
“Sexual assault survivors will always be our priority,” the unattributed statement read in full. “While Dean Rashad acknowledged in his follow-up tweet that victims must be heard and believed, his initial tweet lacked sensitivity towards survivors of sexual assault … We will continue to fully advocate for survivors and support their right to “Be heard. Howard will stand with the survivors and challenge systems that deny them justice. We are fully confident that our faculty and the leadership of our school will live up to this sacred commitment.”
Yet Howard’s statement was not enough for some current students and alumni.
“Hold her ass accountable,” Whitney Meritus, class of 2024, said on Instagram. “I would take an un famous dean who believes AS victims rather than a famous dean who does bullshit like that … don’t get me wrong, I know she was his teacher and all, but I don’t think so. that she deserves to run the Chadwick A. Boseman School of Fine Arts. No more. “
“Hold his ass to blame … I would take an un famous dean who believes in AS victims rather than a famous dean who does bullshit like that …“
Alum Nylah Burton told the Daily Beast that she was disappointed with Rashad’s statement, but not necessarily surprised. “I’m learning not to expect anything from people when it comes to supporting survivors and sexual assault,” she explained. “I just found out that people are just a little bit shitty, and especially more empowered people.”
“So when I saw his tweet, honestly I wasn’t surprised. I don’t know if that’s the right thing to say, maybe I’m meant to say I’m shocked, disgusted and that I can never imagine anyone from my beautiful university behaving that way. But that just isn’t true. It didn’t surprise me.
“I ask for its withdrawal, whether or not I have the energy to fight for it, it is a whole other thing,” she added.
Burton unfortunately had her own experience dealing with a sexual assault on Howard, and wouldn’t be sure she would feel comfortable asking for help if Rashad was the dean of her college in light of her statement.
In recent years, the university has struggled to deal with reports of sexual assault. In 2017, six women filed a lawsuit against the university, alleging that it had “acted with willful indifference” to their demands and failed to eliminate serial predators from campus. The women finally settled down with Howard in 2020. Every year since, the school’s handling of sexual violence has sparked an uproar, leading Burton to set up the Black Survivors Healing Fund last summer.
GoFundMe provides financial assistance to current and former Howard students who were sexually assaulted while in college. Burton, who works as a writer, was prompted to take action after dozens of college students began sharing their stories on Twitter about how they experienced sexual violence, domestic violence, and emotional abuse during their time in school. studies.
Aiming to support 20 needy people at a time with $ 5,000 to ease the financial crisis they face, including therapy bills, emergency housing or child care, Burton helped distribute $ 42,000 to date.
So when she saw Rashad’s tweet, she thought it was a good time to plug in the fund, which saw a slowdown in donations. “I was like, ‘Well if she wants to play bald games on the internet, at least we can give money to the survivors,” Burton said.
“I was like, ‘Well if she wants to play bald head games on the internet, at the very least we can give money to the survivors.’“
Another former HBCU esteemed official, who did not wish to be named, told the Daily Beast that she was prepared to cut all ties with Howard, including donations, if Rashad was not removed from his post as Dean.
The alum explained that she was sexually assaulted while a student in the early 2000s. However, due to the lack of information and resources available to students at the time, she did not never reported his assault.
Howard’s statement regarding Rashad “is extremely disappointing to see in 2021,” she said via Twitter DM.
“I have to ask myself if I want to partner / donate to Howard in the future or encourage my son to attend (something I’ve always dreamed of). I expect them to end his resignation, anything less than that is acceptable to me.
“Management needs to send a clear message that the campus culture is changing,” she added.
Others felt the same. “As a Howard graduate and survivor, I also can’t imagine the pressure to remain silent. [sic] this adds to any student. We all deserve better ”, Jennifer Valdivieso Parks mentionned in a tweet.
“As an alumnus of @HowardU School of Fine Arts and as a survivor this tweet from @PhyliciaRashad is disappointing,” Alicia Sanchez Gill rang. “I hope we can have a dean who believes and respects the survivors.”
Alum Andrew Addison said he believed Rashad’s statement proved that she was unqualified for the job and that it was now up to Howard to “do the right thing and rectify the situation. “
Still, it would be shocking if Howard decided to sever ties with Rashad, herself a former student and lifelong defender of the university. The actress graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts magna cum laude in 1970.
Her late father Andrew Arthur Allen Sr. attended Howard Dental School, where he graduated in 1945, and his sister Debbie Allen, an actress and dancer, graduated from Howard in 1971. Over the years, Rashad y taught courses and served as a mentor to Boseman. , graduated in 2000.
But by firing Rashad, students and alumni believe it would be a step in the right direction to prove to potential and current students, and the Howard community at large, that he takes sexual assault issues seriously. and student safety.
“I love Howard, but I know he has to grow up,” added a former alum. “I hope they will do what needs to be done… They need to realize that they can’t sweep things under the mat anymore, there needs to be an effort to honestly take responsibility for the students who have been injured and of how they were injured. did not address sexual assault.