George Washington University announced Monday it was rescinding an honorary doctoral degree that was awarded to Bill Cosby in 1997, amid ongoing allegations of sexual assault against the comedian.
It hasn’t been the university’s practice to revoke an honorary degree following new information about a recipient, but “whatever may ultimately be determined about the guilt or innocence of Mr. Cosby in a court of law, the controversy itself has become a cause of renewed distress for our students and alumni who are survivors of sexual assault,” President Steven Knapp said in a statement on the school’s website.
“This action by itself will not end the scourge of sexual assault on this or any other campus,” he added, urging the community to help the White House’s “It’s on Us” awareness initiative to prevent sexual assault on college campuses.
The university, located in the nation’s capital, previously said in October 2015 that “[i]t has never been the university’s practice to rescind an honorary degree.” Student groups met with Knapp afterward to formally condemn the university’s decision.
Cosby has received nearly 60 honorary degrees from universities over the course of his career. But once dozens of women publicly accused the 78-year-old comedian of raping or sexually assaulting them in incidents that date as far back as the late 1960s. Cosby has repeatedly denied the claims.
In December, Pennsylvania authorities charged Cosby with aggravated indecent assault against a woman in 2004.