After Cosby’s conviction, his alma mater rescinds honorary degree

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(Reuters) – Temple University on Friday rescinded an honorary doctorate it had awarded to Bill Cosby, a graduate of the Philadelphia school and longtime fundraiser, where years later he met the woman whom he was convicted sexually assaulting.

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby exits the Montgomery County Courthouse after a jury convicted him in a sexual assault retrial in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Temple joined at least three other major U.S. universities that took back honorary degrees since Thursday’s verdict, reflecting a broader reappraisal of the comedian’s place in American culture after his sexual assault conviction.

The announcement by Temple followed withdrawals by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Notre Dame in Indiana and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. All of the schools embraced Cosby years ago when he was celebrated as a beloved black comedian who had transcended racial divides to become “America’s Dad.”

Before his conviction in a Pennsylvania court, at least 15 schools had withdrawn honors from Cosby, as dozens of women went public with accusations of sexual assault, some of them dating to the 1960s.

“In 1991, based on his career achievements, Temple awarded an honorary degree to William Cosby,” the school said in a statement on Friday. “Today the Temple University Board of Trustees has accepted the recommendation of the University to rescind the honorary degree.”

As a trustee of Temple, Cosby first met Andrea Constand, a former university employee that he would drug and sexually assault in 2004 at his nearby home, 14 years before his conviction for the crime.

Constand was an administrator of the Temple women’s basketball team at the time, and Cosby, a Philadelphia native who maintained close ties to the university as one of its most prominent alumni, befriended her and invited her to dinners.

The University of Massachusetts, where the onetime high school dropout earned a doctorate in education, cut ties with Cosby in 2014.

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby exits Montgomery County Courthouse after a jury convicted him in a sexual assault retrial in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Boston College, in contrast, said its policy was not to rescind honorary degrees, and would not make an exception for Cosby despite his conviction, the Boston Globe reported on Friday.

A question mark also hovers over the presence of the actor-comedian at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. Before his conviction, the museum grappled with how best to highlight Cosby’s impact on the culture while acknowledging the accusations against him.

Museum officials on Friday had no comment about the fate of two Cosby items on display: a comic book from the 1960s Cosby show “I, Spy” and the cover of his 1964 album comedy album, “I Started Out as a Child.”

The museum, which opened in 2016, had initially decided against explaining Cosby’s legal problems in the exhibits but reversed course before its public opening and mentioned the allegations of sexual assault in the display material.

“This is not an exhibition that ‘honors or celebrates’ Bill Cosby but one that acknowledges his role, among many others, in American entertainment,” Lonnie Bunch, the museum’s founding director, said in 2016.

“The Cosby Show,” the sitcom that cemented Cosby’s standing as one of the country’s best-loved stars, already has become harder to find. The Bounce TV channel announced after the guilty verdict that it would pull reruns of the show from its schedules, Deadline Hollywood reported.

Wesley Morris, a critic for the New York Times, wrote on Thursday that Cosby had been a role model for a generation of young black men like him.

“Mr. Cosby told lots of jokes,” he said. “This was his sickest one.”

Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York and Ian Simpson in Washington; editing by Bill Trott and Jonathan Oatis

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