By EDITORIAL BOARD
In light of the recent sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby, several universities, including Fordham, Tufts and Brown have rescinded the honorary degrees held by Cosby at their institutions.
For his extensive and impactful career in comedy, Cosby has received nearly 60 honorary degrees, including one from Hopkins in 2004 after he gave the commencement address. Given the horrific nature of the allegations against him, the Editorial Board believes that the University must rescind his honorary degree.
In 2004, Daniel H. Weiss, the dean of Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at the time, awarded the honorary degree. Weiss summarized Cosby’s career in comedy and outlined why he deserved the honorary degree.
“Your gift lies not only in making us laugh, but also in making us feel like we are in on the fun,” Weiss said. “Both on stage and off, you emphasize achievement and the value of positive role models.”
Cosby has been accused of sexual assault by over 50 women, with many of the allegations dating back to the mid-1960s.
He has denied all the allegations and has not yet been charged.
Cosby no longer represents achievement nor is he a positive role model. He received the commendation based on his contributions to society as a comedian, but after such a wide range of sexual assault allegations, we believe that the University would absolutely not award him such an accolade today. Though these are only allegations right now, it is fully within the University’s rights to act on this information. An honorary degree is exactly what the name implies — a tremendous honor. He should not be allowed to keep an honorary degree given to him for his accomplishments given the revelation of misconduct.
The student body does not want to be associated with Cosby any longer, and neither should the University. Honorary degrees are not forgotten after the commencement ceremony ends. The University record will forever connect Cosby’s name to Hopkins, and any biography of Cosby will forever connect his name to ours.
Moreover, rescinding his degree would convey to the Hopkins community and the public at large that the University stands with victims of sexual assault. In a time when sexual assault on college campuses is such a hot topic, we believe that it is increasingly important for Hopkins to take a public stance against sexual assault, victim blaming and rape culture. While Cosby still holds an honorary degree here, Hopkins is sending the wrong message to the students, the faculty and the public. Choosing to uphold the degree says that there are excuses — his comedic talent, the ceremonial nature of the degree, tradition — that take precedence over sexual assault.
Therefore, the University must rescind this honor.