Perhaps the most despicable parts of the fallout from the dozens of accusations against him were not the alleged premeditated, drug induced assaults themselves, but the subsequent verbal assaults on his accusers. From accredited people like Whoopi Goldberg to anonymous trolls on the internet, Cosby’s fan base has proved more valuable in protecting his public image than his lawyer.
On Sept. 24, 2015, the Office of the President of Fordham University sent a statement via email to both students and faculty that reported the university had rescinded Cosby’s honorary degree, given to him in 2001, saying “By his own admission, Mr. Cosby’s sexual exploitation of women was premeditated and ongoing. Equally appalling is his longtime strategy of denigrating the reputations of women who accused him of such actions.”
Cosby’s lawyer has provided consistent defense, though. In a statement attacking the email sent by Rev. Joseph McShane S.J., president of the university, John P. Schmitt said “Mr. Cosby has been convicted of no crime and has steadfastly maintained his innocence.”
However, the standards of law and the standards established by Fordham should and do differ. Our bar should be higher than that of the court of law. In 2005, Andrea Constand accused Cosby of drugging and raping her. This past July, a deposition was released that details Cosby’s testimony. These facts can be found in the many pages of the documents.
He obtained a prescription for Methaqualone, a sedative, to give to women he desired, and did give it to at least one of them. Regarding this, Cosby said “She meets me backstage. I give her Quaaludes. We then have sex.” Cosby offered money to one of his accusers for her education. This woman just wanted an apology. Beth Ferrier’s story that detailed another Cosby allegation was prevented from being printed in the National Enquirer. In January 2015, Cosby joked at a stand-up performance that “you have to be careful about drinking around me.”
More than fifty women have accused Cosby of sexual assault. Many of those assaults were allegedly drug induced. The efforts to defend Cosby have often come at the expense of the victims. They are accused of falsifying claims and of profiting off the fame of Cosby, and of being “un-rape-able,” according to Damon Wayans.
The actions of Cosby and his associates, regardless that he has not yet been convicted of a crime, do not reflect Fordham University’s values. Honorary degrees must be given to only those with the most outstanding moral character.
The law does not indicate morality. Just because Cosby is innocent until proven guilty does not mean that he did not commit these crimes.
We live in a society where 97 out of every 100 perpetrators of sexual assault walk free, according to The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
Women often do not report rape because of this overwhelming statistic. In a culture that blames victims and has discouraged dialogue on sexual assault, it is not only advisable, but also necessary for Fordham to revoke Cosby’s honorary degree.
Fordham’s nullification of Cosby’s degree establishes that the university does not condone sexual assault. This seems like the lowest standard of morality that an educational institution can command. But it is currently a higher standard than the one imposed by the law.
Cosby had a remarkable career. He made a television show about an African-American family not only popular, but a pop culture phenomenon.
However, this does not excuse Cosby of sexual assault, drugging or contributing to rape culture through jokes and light-hearted banter about rape. He has not yet been convicted of any crime. His actions and morality, though, are not deserving of an honorary degree.
Theresa Schliep, FCRH ’19, is undecided in her major from Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey.