SGA calls on Univ. to revoke Cosby’s degree

For The News-Letter

The Student Government Association (SGA) unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday calling for the University to rescind Bill Cosby’s honorary degree.

After speaking to members of the Sexual Assault Resource Unit (SARU) and many students on campus, SGA Executive President Jack Bartholet found that there was unanimous support to repeal Cosby’s honorary degree. He believes that, as the voice of the student body, the SGA must take action on the subject.

“The school is very much against sexual violence,” he said. “We cannot stand to keep his honorary degree.”

The resolution condemns Cosby’s actions and quotes previous University statements on sexual assault.

“Mr. Cosby’s actions, both alleged and admitted, do not represent and are indeed axiomatically contradictory to our core values as an institution,” the resolution states.

The University has not yet decided whether they will revoke Cosby’s honorary degree.

Lili Bernard, a parent of a student at Hopkins, is one of the women who has accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault. Recently, she and members of SARU met with Secretary of the Board of Trustees Maureen Marsh and Interim Vice President and General Counsel Paul Pineau to discuss revoking Cosby’s honorary degree from Hopkins.

Bartholet met with Secretary Marsh and a school lawyer, as well, who said that the Board of Trustees wants to hear student input on the matter.

In the resolution, SGA says that allowing Cosby to keep the degree goes against the University’s principles.

“Mr. Bill Cosby and his actions do not represent the values nor the character of The Johns Hopkins University,” the resolution states. “It fundamentally tarnishes the name and reputation of The Johns Hopkins University to continue to allow Mr. Cosby to maintain the distinction of holding an honorary degree from our institution.”

Since 1880, Hopkins has awarded 470 honorary degree, including Cosby in 2004 when he gave the Commencement address. Hopkins has never rescinded an honorary degree.

Despite Cosby not being found guilty of a crime, Bartholet stressed that there are still grounds to rescind the honor.

“Bill Cosby testified under oath to illegally purchasing sedatives for the expressed purpose of giving them to the young women with whom he sought to have sex with, which is so inconsistent with our values as a university,” Bartholet said.

“What he admitted to under oath is enough to cause us to want to have his honorary degree revoked.”

Thirteen other institutions, including Brown University, Tufts University and Amherst College, have annulled honorary degrees given to Cosby. However, 37 other institutions have not.

Junior Class Senator Liam Haviv said that it is becoming a national issue that other institutions have not yet revoked Cosby’s degrees. He believes that Hopkins has a duty to motivate those other schools to take action.

“Among the 37 universities, including Yale, that have not revoked the degree, it has become an integrity question,” Haviv said. “I think we need to lead among our peer institutions, and this is where we can say that this is a necessary step.”

Bartholet agreed with Haviv’s sentiments and added that receiving such an honor from the University is significant.

“The distinction of receiving an honor from Johns Hopkins University should be really big,” Bartholet said. “Allowing Bill Cosby to maintain that distinction diminishes not only honorary degrees from Hopkins, but also the name of our institution and collectively diminishes each of us associated.”

The resolution emphasizes the significance of Cosby holding an honorary degree from the University.

“It diminishes all of the hard work of every student, faculty, staff, administrator, alum, parent, friend, and trustee of our University, who have labored so intensely to leave this University better than they have found it, to degrade our collective and individual reputations by associating with Mr. Cosby,” the resolution states.

Additionally, the meeting included a presentation by Coordinator for Student Unions on Programming Jahan Mirchandani about potential cooperation between JHUnions and the SGA.

JHUnion Satellites is a Programming Board by the Office of Student Leadership and Involvement that seeks to enhance on-campus social opportunities by hosting weekly events at Nolan’s, the Levering Lounge and the Mattin Center.

According to Mirchandani, JHUnions would be able to provide the logistics and funding for the programming of events, leaving the SGA in charge of marketing and advertising events. That way, the SGA can focus on its role as a legislative body, while still being able to plan and promote events on campus.

The meeting finished with the confirmation of Executive Vice President Charlie Green’s committee assignments for the newly inducted freshmen and a discussion of the of the Boo Jay Bash that took place on Halloween night in Levering Hall.

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