Northwestern trustees to consider rescinding Bill Cosby’s honorary degree

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Northwestern University has revoked the honorary degree it awarded Bill Cosby two decades ago —the first time the school has taken such a step in its 167-year history. | AP file photo

In the wake of Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction, Northwestern University officials will soon consider whether to rescind the honorary degree awarded two decades ago to the now-disgraced comedian.

Northwestern’s board of trustees will review the status of Cosby’s degree at a June 18 meeting. It would likely be the first time Northwestern has taken back an honorary degree, according to the school.

“Northwestern University is committed to fostering an environment in which all members of our community are safe, secure, and free from sexual misconduct,” the school said in a statement Wednesday. “The University prohibits all forms of sexual misconduct, including but not limited to, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, stalking, dating or domestic violence, and sexual harassment.”

The Evanston school would join a growing list of universities that have yanked degrees from Cosby, including Yale University, Notre Dame, Boston College and even his alma mater, Temple University.

Cosby delivered the commencement address at Northwestern in 1997, when he received an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

“When you get to your first job, talk to the janitor, because they know more than the president,” Cosby told about 4,000 graduates, donning an NU sweatshirt on a sweltering June afternoon. “They know who’s in trouble and who’s not.”

Cosby, 80, was convicted April 26 of drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand in his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004, and he remains on house arrest ahead of sentencing.

Dozens more women have stepped forward in recent years to accuse Cosby of sexual assault as part of the burgeoning #MeToo movement.

Northwestern’s website lists 69 trustees, including Michael Ferro, the former majority owner of the parent companies of the Chicago Sun-Times and later the Chicago Tribune, who himself was accused of sexual harassment hours after announcing his departure from Tronc Inc. in March. A spokesperson for Ferro could not immediately be reached for comment.

Other trustees include Democratic gubernatorial nominee J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz, asset management CEO Michael Sacks, ESPN personality Michael Wilbon and USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan.

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