On Friday, September 25th 2015, The University of San Francisco’s Board of Trustees voted to rescind William H. Cosby Jr.’s honorary degree from the School of Arts and Sciences. I’d like to say something that I believe many of us would like to say to the Board of Trustees: it is about time.
The University of San Francisco’s mission is to change the world from here, to do well and to be your best self in order to help others. Bill Cosby does not emit the values the USF community stands for. As USF President, Rev. Paul J. Fitzgerald S.J. said in a recent campus-wide email, “By his own statements in a court deposition made public in July, Mr. Cosby acknowledges behavior that is inconsistent with the University of San Francisco’s criteria for a USF honorary degree.”
I believe that though this is a great deed and an amazing decision made by the Board of Trustees, it took far too long. We awarded Bill Cosby an honorary degree in May 2012, and though he is an educator and comedian and modeled as a great man, he has many qualities that makes him, to say it bluntly, one of the worst types of men on the planet.
In regards to sexual assault USF is not ignorant about the topic, considering it is one of the first universities to adopt Callisto, a new form of reporting sexual assault. Callisto, designed by the nonprofit organization Sexual Health Innovations, is a third-party online reporting system designed for colleges using input from rape survivors, according to the Huffington Post. And with women coming forward decades later saying Mr. Cosby drugged them and forced them to perform in sexual acts with him you would think once the University first heard of these allegations they would revoke his degree. Knowing how strong the university’s Jesuit values are, and how protective we are over our students and staff, one who acts directly against our core beliefs should not be honored. You would think that this university would also be the first to rescind a degree from a man who represents the exact opposite of what they believe in.
When talking about the man, this father figure for millions of Americans, we cannot be blinded by his work for charity, his history in comedy, or his legendary status. We must think of the way he has been accused of treating these 30 (or more) women. The act of sexual assault is not one that can be forgiven, particularly when done a countless number of times by a person who holds power in our society. And with that we see how Mr. Cosby would have thought, after being showered with praise and love and honorary degrees, that he was immune to punishment for his wrongdoings. We need to think about the women and give them as much back as we can as a community. We must offer support, love and most importantly, me must retract any gratification we gave the man who assaulted them. Which, in this case, means rescinding his honorary degree from our university.
So kudos USF, for taking a stand and revoking the degree. This is a great change, and one that should inspire our community to stand up and speak out when we see wrong in the world, allowing us to hopefully one day change the world from here.