UPenn Will Rescind Bill Cosby's Honorary Degree - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

The University of Pennsylvania is distancing itself from Bill Cosby and billionaire chairman of the Republican National Committee Steve Wynn.

The Ivy League college announced plans Thursday to rescind the legendary comedian’s honorary degree. The school said it will also remove the name Wynn Commons, named for Wynn, from the centrally located outdoor plaza bounded by Houston Hall, Claudia Cohen Hall, College Hall, and Irvine Auditorium.

In 2015, as dozens of women came out against Cosby alleging sexual assault and as students protested across campus, school administrators rebuffed calls to revoke Cosby’s honorary degree.

“While the allegations against Mr. Cosby are deeply troubling, it is not our practice to rescind honorary degrees,” Vice President for University Communications Steve McCarthy said in a statement at the time.

The college, however, had previously rescinded two degrees it awarded to Germans Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm II and Johann Heinrich von Bernstorff following World War I when the United States broke diplomatic ties with Germany.

So what changed?

The college said it had to take action after multiple reports last week detailed Wynn’s alleged decadeslong acts of sexual harassment and intimidation.

“To that end, we convened a small group composed of trustees, alumni, deans, and faculty who deliberated carefully on the nature of the charges made against Mr. Wynn and the correct course of action the University should take in response,” school administrators explained in a statement. 

“It has been a century since the University of Pennsylvania last revoked an honorary degree, and we do not take that decision—or the decision to remove Mr. Wynn’s name from the Commons and from the scholarship fund he created—lightly,” David L. Cohen, chair, Penn Board of Trustees said in the same statement. “We view these as extraordinary and essentially unique circumstances that call for an immediate, decisive, and clearly ethical response.”

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Adedamola Agboola

Adedamola Agboola is a digital reporter at Black Enterprise Magazine. Previously, he was a multimedia reporter for Blank Slate Media covering the villages Roslyn and Manhasset for the Manhasset Times and Roslyn Times. Before that, he was a reporter with Norwood News, a biweekly community newspaper covering the neighborhoods of Norwood, Bedford Park, Fordham and University Heights. He is from Nigeria.


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