National News

RPI rescinds Cosby's degree after abuse conviction

Posted May 22, 2018 7:24 a.m. EDT

TROY, N.Y. _ Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is rescinding the honorary degree the school gave to Bill Cosby in 2001 _ weeks after the comedian's conviction for drugging and sexually assaulting women prompted other colleges to pull their degrees.

The decision to pull Cosby's degree came with a vote Friday by RPI's board of trustees, RPI spokeswoman Richie Hunter said in a statement Monday.

The disgraced entertainer in late April was convicted by a Pennsylvania jury of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman 14 years ago. The conviction, which came after an earlier mistrial, capped what has been a spectacular downfall for one of the country's best-known celebrities.

In recent years, dozens of women had come forward, saying Cosby had spiked their drinks and sexually assaulted them. The accusations predated the social media #MeToo movement calling out sexual harassment and assault, but Cosby had become a symbol of sexual abuse by the powerful.

Immediately after the conviction, several universities, including Johns Hopkins, Notre Dame, Carnegie Mellon and Indiana pulled degrees that were awarded to Cosby.

The State University of New York board of trustees on May 3 had voted to rescind a degree it gave Cosby in 2000 from SUNY's Fashion Institute of Technology.

The SUNY board at that time also took back a degree given to Metropolitan Opera pianist and conductor James Levine, which was given at SUNY Potsdam. While denying accusations of sexual misconduct, Levine in March was fired from the opera.

There were calls for RPI to strip Cosby of his degree shortly after his conviction on three counts of aggravated indecent assault.

Times Union columnist Chris Churchill, for instance, wrote that Cosby, who had been known as "America's dad" on "The Cosby Show," turned out to be a "sick and terrifying predator."

"You have to respect everyone," Cosby said when he received his honorary degree in 2001.