Bill Cosby has been the recipient of nearly 60 honorary degrees — everything from fine arts, music, education, and law — since his ascent into Hollywood in the 1960s. They represent a public association between the university and the recipient, one that in this case has become highly undesirable after the revelations of nearly 60 women who have publicly accused Cosby of sexual assault and rape, and his recent conviction of three counts of sexual assault. Some of the universities have already severed ties with Cosby. Many of the rest find themselves in uncharted waters, wondering how and if to proceed.
Curious to learn more about how they view those honorary degrees (or if they’re even aware they gave Cosby one), Vulture reached out to more than 40 of the remaining universities. Most of them agreed to comment for this piece. Many of the rest share a certain befuddlement over how to address a terrible situation for which they had no game plan. Unless otherwise specified, all responses are from official university spokespeople. The responses have also been updated throughout.
Berklee College of Music
“In 2014, the college removed Bill Cosby’s name from an online scholarship awarded annually for online study. We are actively engaged in internal discussion to determine our course of action in regard to the honorary degree presented to Bill Cosby in 2004.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: Berklee College of Music confirmed to Vulture that the college rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree in early 2016.
“Bill Cosby was awarded an honorary degree from Boston College in 1996 in recognition of his role as an actor and humorist and his work on behalf of education. While the recent allegations against him are reprehensible, as a matter of policy, Boston College does not rescind honorary degrees.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: Boston College rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on April 26, 2018. “In light of his conviction, Boston College has made the decision to rescind the honorary degree it awarded to Bill Cosby in 1996,” the university wrote on its Twitter account.
“We’re still monitoring legal developments in the cases.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: Boston University rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on December 14, 2015. A statement by President Robert A. Brown said the decision “was based on a determination, supported by Mr. Cosby’s sworn deposition testimony, that his treatment of women has brought significant and lasting discredit upon himself and is inconsistent with the University’s mission and values. Mr. Cosby’s admitted conduct, which the University learned about only after awarding him the degree, demonstrates that his character fails to reflect the integrity and virtues that the University values and esteems in members of its community, and in those persons the University holds up for this particular honor.”
“We have nothing to say at this time.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: Bryant University rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on November 12, 2015. “We feel strongly that this is a timely and appropriate action,” the university said in a statement. “In revoking Mr. Cosby’s honorary degree we uphold the values, character, and mission of Bryant University.”
Carnegie Mellon University
“Carnegie Mellon is having internal discussions regarding Bill Cosby’s honorary degree. The university has not made a decision at this time. We have no further comment.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: Carnegie Mellon University rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on April 26, 2018. “Carnegie Mellon University has long had a clear and unwavering commitment: The university will not tolerate sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking or sexual harassment. These acts are against the law and violate our core values,” the college said in a statement. In order to fulfill that commitment and in light of Bill Cosby’s criminal conviction for aggravated indecent assault, Carnegie Mellon University has decided to revoke an honorary degree it awarded to Mr. Cosby in 2007.”
“We have no comment at this time.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: Colby College resinded Cosby’s honorary degree on May 2, 2018. “Following Bill Cosby’s conviction last week on multiple counts of sexual assault, the Colby College Board of Trustees has voted unanimously to rescind the honorary degree he received in 1992,” the college said in a statement. “Colby will also convene a group of students, faculty, staff, and trustees to review its policies regarding rescission of honorary degrees.”
“Yes, the notion of revoking Bill Cosby’s honorary degree is under discussion, and I expect there to be a decision to share soon.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: Colgate University rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree in October 2016, a university spokesperson confirmed to Vulture.
“We have no comment at this time.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: Cooper Union rescinded Cosby’s degree on April 27, 2018. “With the criminal case now complete and a guilty verdict rendered, The Cooper Union will rescind the honorary doctorate of humane letters conferred upon Bill Cosby in 2002 when he was commencement speaker,” Laura Sparks, president of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, said in a statement to Vulture. “We have great expectations for the kind of community we wish to foster for The Cooper Union and the world at large, which means we have zero tolerance for harassment or assault of any kind.”
Delaware State University
“Our DSU Board of Trustees have taken the verdict under advisement and will decide at a later date whether any action concerning [the] 2001 honorary degree is warranted.” — Statement from May 2018
“Drew will examine the Cosby honorary degree (granted in 2001) soon, and a decision will be made and shared in the next few weeks.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: Drew University rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on November 16, 2015. The university confirmed the news without adding an additional statement.
“We have not taken any action at this time.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: Drexel University rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on November 12, 2015. “The misconduct by Bill Cosby that came to light through his sworn deposition testimony stands in clear opposition to Drexel’s values,” the college said in a statement.
Fashion Institute of Technology
“Bill Cosby received an honorary degree at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s commencement exercises in 2000. As a college of the State University of New York (SUNY), FIT submits honorary degree nominations to SUNY, which then reviews, approves, and confers the degree. In light of current events, FIT will review the decision to award the honorary degree to Mr. Cosby. Any recommendation to change the status of the award would be submitted to the State University of New York for its consideration. In any event, we do not comment on ongoing internal discussions.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: The Fashion Institute of Technology and the entire State of New York (SUNY) school system rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on May 3, 2018. “Today we continue to take a stand against sexual misconduct,” the college’s statement read. “The actions that led to the recent conviction of Bill Cosby … are inexcusable and oppose the values and mission of our system. It is for this reason that SUNY revokes their honorary degrees.”
George Washington University
“While we are shocked and disturbed by the allegations against Mr. Cosby, honorary degrees are conferred at a moment in time, based on what the university knows about the honoree at that time. It has never been the university’s practice to rescind an honorary degree.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: George Washington University rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on January 11, 2016. “What has particularly moved and impressed me has been the argument that, whatever may ultimately be determined about the guilt or innocence of Mr. Cosby in a court of law, the controversy itself has become a cause of renewed distress for our students and alumni who are survivors of sexual assault,” the university’s president, Steve Knapp, said in a statement. “That makes this case different, in my considered judgment, from other cases in which the assessment of a degree candidate might be altered by subsequent information or events. I have therefore decided that the university will rescind Mr. Cosby’s honorary degree.”
“We have never rescinded an honorary degree. Haverford’s Board of Managers is considering input from students, faculty, staff, and alumni about the full range of issues attendant to this situation, beginning with the process itself: How and why are degrees awarded, and how and why could they, or should they, be rescinded?” — Statement from October 2015
Update: Haverford College rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on February 27, 2016. “Although his creative contributions at the crossroads of education, civil rights, and entertainment remain, Dr. Cosby’s admission that he acquired drugs for the purpose of giving them to women with whom he wanted to have sex undermines the educational and humanitarian principles for which the Haverford community honored him 14 years ago,” the college wrote in a statement. “The college is deeply troubled by the nature of the conduct to which Dr. Cosby has admitted, which we view as gravely inconsistent with Haverford’s institutional values.”
“Confirming, Mr. Cosby is still an honorary degree holder at Howard University.” — Statement from May 2018
John Jay College of Criminal Justice (From President Jeremy Travis)
“It’s being recommended to me, and then ultimately to the board that [the degree] be rescinded. The conversations started between me and the leadership of the faculty senate at the beginning of the academic year, so that means late August, something like that. The faculty senate put it on their agenda for discussion through their governance process on October 14. They voted overwhelmingly, 47 affirmative and 1 negative and no extensions, so that’s a pretty powerful vote for a resolution, recommending that the degree be rescinded. That has been forwarded to me, and I have forwarded it to the chancellor of the university with endorsing their recommendation wholeheartedly that the honorary degree be rescinded. Then the process goes to the Board of Trustees of the university, which authorized John Jay — this is before my time — but authorized John Jay to award the degree, and we’re now recommending that the degree be rescinded in light of what we now know about Mr. Cosby’s actions.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: John Jay College of Criminal Justice rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree in November 2015, the college confirmed to Vulture.
Johns Hopkins University
“At this point, we do not have anything to say.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: Johns Hopkins rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on April 27, 2018. “As a university, we stand in firm opposition to sexual assault, whether on our campuses or elsewhere. This decision underscores that opposition,” the university said in a statement.
New York University
“Given Mr. Cosby’s conviction, the Trustees expect to take up the issue of his honorary degree at their next meeting.” — Statement from May 2018
North Carolina A&T State University
“North Carolina A&T State University grants honorary degrees following a vetting process based on a person’s contributions and merit that we know of at the time. We have been in conversations regarding the awarding of Bill Cosby’s honorary degree, and a decision will also go through a similar vetting process.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: North Carolina A&T State University rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on April 27, 2018. The university confirmed the news without issuing any additional statement.
“We have no comment at this time.” — Statement from May 2018
Update: Northwestern University rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on June 18, 2018. “Northwestern University is committed to fostering an environment in which all members of its community are safe, secure, and free from sexual misconduct,” the university said in a statement. “The university prohibits all forms of sexual misconduct, including but not limited to, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, stalking, dating or domestic violence, and sexual harassment.”
“The matter is under consideration.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: Oberlin College rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on December 22, 2015. “Mr. Cosby’s admitted actions are not congruent with Oberlin College’s commitment to supporting survivors of sexualized violence, as reflected in its sexual misconduct policy, and do not epitomize the high standards Oberlin considers in awarding honorary degrees,” a statement from the college read.
Ohio State University
“Like many of our peer institutions, Ohio State is very concerned by the reports regarding Bill Cosby, and the honorary degree he received in 2001 is under review.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: Ohio State University rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on April 9, 2018. “A determination was made by the appropriate bodies to request that the Board of Trustees effectuate the revocation of said presidential honorary degree,” the university’s president, Michael Drake, said in a statement.
“Paine College is not going to rescind the honorary degree received by Bill Cosby. Dr. Jerry L. Hardee, President believes that it was awarded at a time to Mr. Cosby for a noteworthy achievement.” — Statement from May 2018
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
“We are aware of this matter, however I do not have a response to provide to you at this time.” — Statement from May 2018
Update: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on May 18, 2018. “The decision was based on Mr. Cosby’s April 26, 2018, criminal conviction of aggravated indecent assault,” the university said in a statement. “Mr. Cosby’s conduct, adjudicated by a jury, clearly demonstrates that Mr. Cosby has grossly failed to embody the ideals of personal integrity and good citizenship upon which the honorary degree was based.”
“At the present time, we have no plans to make any changes to Dr. Cosby’s honorary degree.” — Statement from May 2018
Sisseton Wahpeton College (from President Harvey DuMarce)
“We are a small American Indian tribal college way out in South Dakota. A majority of our students are tribal members. Their age range varies between nontraditional- and traditional-age students. However, a majority of our students are female, single parents of at least two children. I am not a spokesman for the students; they can speak for themselves. At this time, Bill Cosby’s honorary degree with the Sisseton Wahpeton College has not been rescinded. While his alleged sexual improprieties are in the national headlines and we see those same headlines, too, his predicament, real or not, is not of any interest to our people way out here in South Dakota. Bill Cosby is a national figure that was once seen on television in the 1980s, but he is not of importance in our lives. Our younger students will likely say, ‘Who is Bill Cosby?’ He may be a big fish in the larger mainstream American society for public consumption, but out here he is of no consequence because he does not touch the lives of people out here. At the same time, many of our students will probably believe all those stories about him because they are being discussed and reported in the media. Our Board of Trustees will have to initiate formal action to rescind his honorary degree, but thus far they have expressed no opinion on his alleged crimes. If necessary, I can submit a formal request to them.” — Statement from October 2015
Southern Methodist University
“SMU’s Faculty Senate in coordination with the President and the Board of Trustees is developing a procedure to rescind honorary degrees. This procedure and subsequent action to rescind the honorary degree given to Bill Cosby will be completed by May 31.” — Statement from May 2018
“The college has not taken any action to date.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: Swarthmore College rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on December 7, 2015. “Mr. Cosby has testified in a deposition under oath, which was made public in July, that he routinely and premeditatively drugged women before having sex with them,” president Valerie Smith said in a statement. “We find that his admitted personal behaviors are wholly inconsistent with our institutional values – and ones we would never want our own students or graduates to emulate.
“At this time we have no additional comments.” — Statement from May 2018
“There has been no conversation about making a change.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: Temple University rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on April 27, 2018. “The bottom line is that Temple held off on taking away his honorary degree until there was a verdict, until the court decided he did something wrong,” the university said in a statement. “We didn’t feel it was appropriate to take any action until now. When the verdict was announced, we took action.”
The College of William & Mary
“William & Mary began awarding honorary degrees in 1756 with an honorary master’s bestowed to Benjamin Franklin. Since that time, the university has given hundreds of honorary degrees but we have never rescinded one. The reason being that William & Mary bestows honorary degrees based on information known at the time when they are conferred, and these awards do not constitute a standing endorsement of an individual’s moral character. That said, in the case of Bill Cosby and the honorary master’s degree given to him by William & Mary in 1993, the Board of Visitors will consider in the future whether to make an exception to this longstanding policy.” — Statement from May 2018
Update: The College of William & Mary rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on August 10, 2018. “Since that degree was bestowed, information came to light and was confirmed that Mr. Cosby engaged in abhorrent conduct antithetical to our university’s core values,” the university said in a statement. “Mr. Cosby was afforded due process and has now been criminally convicted in a court of law.”
University of Cincinnati
“I have no information for you at this time. Events involving our campus this summer continue to be the current focus of our efforts and attention at this time.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: University of Cincinnati rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on May 7, 2018. “We, the board of trustees, abhor sexual violence and gender-based violence,” the university said in a statement. “We are committed to providing a safe environment for all.”
University of Connecticut
“We’re having thoughtful discussions at UConn about the issue, but no decisions have been made so far.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: The University of Connecticut rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on June 29, 2016. “Since the conferring of this honorary degree, Mr. Cosby had admitted, in sworn depositions that he engaged in conduct that is incongruent with the values of the University of Connecticut,” the college said in a statement.
University of Maryland
“Our committee on honorary degrees has met and submitted its formal recommendation to rescind the degree. The recommendation will be forwarded to the University System of Maryland office for Board of Regents approval.” — Statement from May 2018
University of Notre Dame
“As it does with all candidates for honorary degrees, Notre Dame weighed carefully the information in the public record on Bill Cosby before he was accorded the honor 25 years ago. Had the kind of deeply disturbing allegations surfaced then that have been made since, Notre Dame wouldn’t have considered awarding the degree. However, it is not the practice of the university to rescind an honorary degree previously awarded to individuals for achievements recognized at those times and, in the absence of criteria applicable retroactively to all, we have no plans to do so now in his case alone. However, the question spotlights the insidiousness of sexual assault and the pervasive silence that has often allowed offenders to escape responsibility, and we recommit ourselves to doing all we can to prevent sexual assault. We encourage and support our students and others to report sexual assault and remind them that a person incapacitated — whether by alcohol, drugs, or otherwise — is incapable of giving consent to sexual activity.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: Notre Dame rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on April 26, 2018. University president, Reverend John Jenkins, released a statement confirming the news, saying the university was “troubled by serious, public accusations made by multiple women against him.”
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (from Chancellor Carol L. Folt)
“I recommended that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Board of Trustees initiate a process via a mail ballot to revoke the honorary degree awarded to Bill Cosby in 2003. This is the first known time that the University has taken steps to rescind an honorary degree, and we do not take this action lightly. In this case, Cosby’s acts were so counter to our campus values that this prestigious honor is no longer appropriate.” — Statement from May 2018
University of Pennsylvania
“I’m afraid I have nothing new to report. Sorry.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: The University of Pennsylvania rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on February 1, 2018. “It has been a century since the University of Pennsylvania last revoked an honorary degree, and we do not take that decision … lightly,” the university said in a statement. “We view these as extraordinary and essentially unique circumstances that call for an immediate, decisive, and clearly ethical response.”
University of Pittsburgh
“The university committee that reviews and recommends candidates for honorary degrees will be reviewing the honorary doctor of humane letters degree awarded to Bill Cosby. The degree was originally awarded to Mr. Cosby in 2002 at the commencement ceremony on our Johnstown campus. The committee will meet sometime this semester and make a recommendation to the administration. A date for the meeting has not been set, but a decision on the matter will be made before the end of the current semester.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: University of Pittsburgh rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on November 13, 2015. “The committee found that certain actions on Mr. Cosby’s part — unknown to the public at the time and subsequently admitted by him — were in conflict with the stated basis for awarding the degree and inconsistent with the core values and principles of the university,” the university wrote in an internal email to students.
University of Southern California
“We will not be commenting at this time.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: The University of Southern California rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on May 1, 2018. The university declined to comment on its decision, only confirming the news.
Virginia Commonwealth University
“Bill Cosby received an honorary degree from VCU in 2008 based on what was known at the time of his professional accomplishments. Because VCU honorary degrees carry no special rights or privileges there is no precedent or policy for revoking them. The behavior detailed in the allegations against Cosby is despicable and anathema to VCU’s values as an institution. VCU has taken definitive actions and made significant investments in student and employee education, counselors, investigators, police, and safety programs to protect and support our community against sexual violence. There is no tolerance for sexual violence at VCU.” — Statement from May 2018
“Immediately after a jury found Bill Cosby guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman, President Michael Roth announced that he would ask the Board of Trustees at its May meeting to revoke the honorary degree Wesleyan awarded Mr. Cosby in 1987.” — Statement from May 2018
“The university has never rescinded an honorary degree and has not rescinded his.” — Statement from October 2015
Update: Yale University rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree on May 2, 2018. “The decision is based on a court record providing clear and convincing evidence of conduct that violates fundamental standards of decency shared by all members of the Yale community, conduct that was unknown to the board at the time the degree was awarded,” the college said in a statement.
Vulture also reached out to Hampton University, Pepperdine University, Old Dominion University, University of South Carolina, and West Chester University, but received no response despite multiple requests for comment.