Wilkes University rescinds honorary degree awarded to Bill Cosby in 2004
University trustees voted unanimously on Oct. 2 to revoke Cosby’s honorary doctorate of humane letters, according to the Associated Press. Over 50 women have come forward in the past year and accused the once respected comedian and actor of rape and sexual assault, and while he has yet to be charged with any crime, 2005 court documents that were recently made public show that he has admitted under oath to extramarital relationships, as an e-mail issued by Wilkes University President Patrick Leahy notes:
“When choosing honorary degree recipients, Wilkes University seeks individuals who have a demonstrated record of accomplishment consonant with the ideals of the university.
“It has become clear, by Mr. Cosby’s own admission in a 2006 legal deposition (Constand v. Cosby) that became public this summer, that he engaged in conduct that is contrary to the values of Wilkes University and the qualities for which he was honored. This conduct is not in keeping with the principles of social justice and civil rights stated in the honorary degree citation. Mr. Cosby does not represent the ideals to which Wilkes aspires or the values most important to the university.”
This is the first time in the university’s history that it has rescinded an honorary degree.
WNEP-TV interviewed Wilkes students yesterday to hear their reactions to the decision:
Cosby was last seen publicly in Northeastern Pennsylvania on April 5, 2013, when he returned to the area for a comedy/spoken word performance at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in Wilkes-Barre.
“Storytelling, unlike a quick two lines and then the laugh, is making a great soup. You build on things. You prepare in a gourmet style or you prepare in a diner style so that your customers taste, and they’re not allowed to add salt or hot sauce; I do that. But I put in the flavors, the herbs. The only thing I can’t do is the odor of something. So the laughs come within the soup,” Cosby said in an interview at the time, describing his live show.
“That is, in itself, one of the most wonderful things, and one of the most wonderful forms in art. For instance, if you go to a play, you see actors, and these actors transform themselves into the characters, so it’s an actor’s interpretation of something.
“When you see them, you see them in their costumes, so the visual is there. When I perform as a storyteller, you will hear, you will see this person – that’s Bill Cosby – transform himself in the same clothes, same face. At one instant, he’s a father, and the next instant he’s a teenage boy, and the next instant he’s a father, then he’s a teenager, so that you are able to look and see that the magic of all of this even with your eyes and even with this man using almost the same voice, but not necessarily the same inflections and emotions. You get from this one person a performance so that these people may very well, with your assistance, [find] meaning to go along with it.”