“Bye, Phylicia,” has a new interpretation.
Students and alumni want the newly hired College of Arts dean at Howard University, Phylicia Rashad, fired after she tweeted, and later deleted, a message supporting recently freed former TV husband Bill Cosby, according to The Los Angeles Times.
“FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted—a miscarriage of justice is corrected!” the original tweet from Rashad, who played Claire Huxtable, the TV wife of Cosby’s Cliff Huxtable on NBC’s Cosby Show, read.
Cosby was released from prison because the Philadelphia Supreme Court overturned Bill Cosby’s sex assault conviction, citing a previous agreement that prevented him from being charged in the first place.
As BLACK ENTERPRISE previously reported, the online controversy prompted the HBCU to make a counter-response, saying, “We will continue to advocate for survivors fully and support their right to be heard. Howard will stand with survivors and challenge systems that would deny them justice. We have full confidence that our faculty and school leadership will live up to this sacred commitment.”
Although Rashad has acknowledged survivors of sexual assault in a follow-up tweet, it seems students and alumni want Rashad gone from the university.
“I fully support survivors of sexual assault coming forward. My post was in no way intended to be insensitive to their truth. Personally, I know from friends and family that such abuse has lifelong residual effects. My heartfelt wish is for healing,” Rashad wrote.
Student Katherine Gilyard was so excited that Rashad was hired at Howard that she changed her major from School of Communications to the College of Fine Arts to have the opportunity to learn from the Tony Award-winning actress.
Now, Gilyard is not interested in walking past the College of Fine Arts building.
I’m mad at myself for still having hope that @HowardU will ever choose students, survivors, or even decency. I’m very disappointed in the leadership of this university. They’ve had so many chances to choose us … to stand with us… and they never do unless it looks right.
— Katherine C. Gilyard (@K__Gilyard) July 1, 2021
“To see how happy she was, rejoicing and thrilled that it’s been overturned … I feel disgusted. That was like a very visceral reaction. My stomach kind of turned, like this is disgusting and not something you expect from someone like that. Yes, they should fire her, but knowing Howard, I don’t think they will,” Gilyard told LA Times.
Alumna Nylah Burton voiced her opinion under Rashad’s follow-up tweet, saying Howard or public relations firm instructed her into making a non-apology tweet.
— nylah burton (@yumcoconutmilk) July 1, 2021
“Howard should absolutely fire her,” Burton, a 26-year-old who dropped out of Howard because she was sexually assaulted, told the LA Times, “because she’s not fit to be a dean of students. For someone like that, when they have such passionate support of a rapist, the fear is not just that you will be ignored or dismissed. The fear is that you’ll be retaliated against, that you’ll be attacked, and you’ll be punished for speaking out.”
Burton started a campaign for survivors in the Howard community on GoFundMe called the Black Survivors Healing Fund, which has raised more than $43,000 of its goal of $50,000.
Cosby was two years into a three-to-10-year prison term for indecent assault against Andrea Constand in 2004 prior to Wednesday’s ruling, which bars a retrial after Cosby was released on a technicality.
“I think that this situation is definitely cause for termination,” a female graduate who wants to be anonymous said, “Just because she’s a dean and so many girls are just not going to feel comfortable going to the dean. [For] survivors, it’s already hard to feel like you can speak about what happened to you. A lot of women don’t feel safe speaking to just anyone about it, usually just their circle of friends or maybe family.”