Marquette and Fordham universities rescind honorary doctorates given to Bill Cosby

AP and WiG reports

Marquette and Fordham universities last week rescinded honorary degrees they’d given to Bill Cosby.

Both Jesuit schools said it is the first time they have rescinded an honorary degree. The moves come amid charges by more than 40 women accusing Cosby of sexual assault. Most of the women say Cosby drugged them before raping them.

Marquette’s Board of Trustees presented Cosby with the honorary degree when he spoke at the university’s commencement ceremony in 2013. The rescission went into effect immediately, the school said.

Cosby has admitted to having extramarital relationships with several women, including some who now accuse him of sexual assault. He has never been charged with a crime.

Marquette President Michael Lovell and Provost Daniel Myers issued a letter to the university community after the decision that said, “By his own admission, Mr. Cosby engaged in behaviors that go entirely against our university’s mission and the Guiding Values we have worked so hard to instill on our campus.”

Fordham issued a similar statement.

“As a Jesuit university, Fordham could no longer stand behind the degree it had bestowed upon Mr. Cosby, hence this unprecedented action,” the New York City university said in a press release.

Attorney John P. Schmitt responded to Fordham’s decision in the letter addressed to the Rev. Joseph McShane, the university’s president, and made public by Cosby publicist David Brokaw.

Cosby’s attorney John P. Schmitt, noting he was a Fordham Law School alumnus, said the university’s statement was “so irresponsible as to shock the conscience” and said it “grossly mischaracterizes both Mr. Cosby’s actions and his deposition testimony, in language more befitting a tabloid journal rather than a respected institution of higher learning.”

“Nothing in his testimony admits to any nonconsensual sexual contact with any woman whatsoever,” Schmitt’s letter said. “As you know, Mr. Cosby has been convicted of no crime and has steadfastly maintained his innocence.”

Schmitt said the two universities have helped legitimize the allegations against Cosby.

Fordham and Marquette are the latest schools to distance themselves from the comedian, joining Central State University, Temple University and Spelman College.