Serial rapists deserve jail time, not honorary degrees

Written By Emily Bennett

It’s highly likely that soon, Pittsburgh residents will be hearing quite a bit more about Bill Cosby than they’d like to.

Cosby, once considered a household comedic staple, may be joining the likes of Lance Armstrong in the department of celebrities with honorary degrees that have fallen from grace.

The 78-year-old Cosby Show star has now added his name to the surprisingly small list of honorary degree holders whose credits have been withdrawn by various universities that once supported and admired their lives and missions. The University of Pittsburgh is one of those facilities currently weighing whether or not it will rescind an honorary doctorate of human letters degree it granted Cosby with in 2002, the year that Cosby was the keynote speaker at Pitt-Johnstown’s commencement ceremony.

This move follows choices made by four other universities – Fordham, Brown, Marquette and University of San Francisco – to revoke Cosby’s honorary degrees. According to a Pittsburgh Business Times report, Pitt has never withdrawn an honorary degree in its history. It does not, however, have any sort of official policy established that would prohibit the cancelation of an honorary degree.

According to University of Pittsburgh spokesman Ken Service, the decision as to whether or not Pitt will follow in the footsteps of those universities will be made by the committee of faculty members that makes the choice as to whom this year’s commencement speaker will be. It is expected that a decision will be reached within the year.

Similarly, Carnegie Mellon University also awarded Cosby an honorary doctorate of human letters when he served as the commencement speaker there just five years after he spoke at Pitt. During the event, which NPR counted as one of the “Best Commencement Speeches, Ever,” the comedian gifted the university with a Scottish Terrier puppy.

A spokesperson for CMU stated that the university did not have any plans to overturn Cosby’s degree and declined any further comment.

The bit with the Scotty dog is quaint, sure. The facts surrounding Cosby’s character, however, are not.

According to the New York Times, Cosby currently holds an impressive 60 honorary degrees. While that might seem excessive, the number is astonishingly close to the 55 women that have come forward to accuse Cosby of drugging and sexually abusing them. In court documents from a civil lawsuit filed in 2005, “America’s Dad” admitted to giving women prescription Quaaludes in hopes of having sex with them.

Cosby claims he received consent. This makes a whole lot of sense considering the known side effects of the drug are sedation, dizziness, and mental misperception, right?

I’m pretty sure that doesn’t qualify as consent on any level.

Serial rapists should not have special privileges in general, let alone 60 honorary degrees.

Unlike officials at CMU, I hope that members of the committee at Pitt that are deciding the fate of Cosby’s precious honorary doctorate realize this and make the pronouncement to leave Cosby high and dry. Perhaps if we’re really lucky, committee members will host a gaudy 80’s sweater burning party, just to top things off.