The school ‘has never rescinded an honorary degree’ and isn’t going to now
Yale University will not rescind an honorary degree awarded to Bill Cosby, even as at least twenty other universities have done so in the wake of the numerous sexual assault accusations leveled at the comedian.
“Yale has never rescinded an honorary degree,” a Yale spokeswoman told The Yale Daily News last week. “Any change to this longstanding practice would have to be taken up by the board of trustees, which is the body that confers degrees, and it is not under active discussion.”
The refusal to rescind the degree comes even after students have agitated for the comedian, whom over fifty women have accused of sexual assault, to be stripped of the honorary award.
Numerous other institutions have stripped Cosby of honorary degrees in recent years, though he has not yet been convicted of any offense. Brown University, Tufts University, Oberlin College, and Boston University are among the schools that have taken back honorary degrees previously awarded to the comedian.
From The Yale Daily News:
In light of national scrutiny around cases of sexual misconduct and the emergence of the #MeToo movement, students interviewed by the News said the University administration should take heed of Penn’s decision to break with precedent and rescind Cosby’s degree.
“It’s a difficult decision that should be made by listening to what students have to say,” said Amy Min NUR ’19. “Also, the fact that Penn hasn’t taken away an honorary degree in a century says a lot about their decision.”
Brian Earp GRD ’22 argued that continuing to recognize Cosby as an exemplar of excellence despite his reprehensible behavior is incompatible with the University’s selection criteria for honorees.
But he agreed with other students who suggested that the University should wait to take action to ensure the strongest possible grounds for revoking the degree.
“Continuing with the logic from 2014, until a decision is handed down from a judge, the University shouldn’t have to do anything about the degree until he’s formally sentenced,” said Bailey Owen ’21.
Several years ago, the historically black Spelman College ended a Bill Cosby endowed professorship, a position created by a $20 million donation from Cosby in 1988.