Fordham University announced Thursday that it would rescind the honorary degree given to Bill Cosby in 2001, marking the first time the University has ever taken back an honorary degree.
The Board of Trustees unanimously voted to rescind the honorary degree amid ongoing allegations that Cosby drugged and sexually abused multiple women over the course of his career. He had originally been awarded the degree for his role in enhancing black representation in American television.
In a letter to students and faculty, Fordham President Joseph M. McShane said that the University has never before rescinded an honorary degree, and that for it to happen “a recipient’s actions would have to be both unambiguously dishonorable and have a deep impact.”
“By his own admission, Mr. Cosby’s sexual exploitation of women was premeditated and ongoing,” McShane wrote. “Equally appalling is his longtime strategy of denigrating the reputations of women who accused him of such actions.”
“That Mr. Cosby was willing to drug and rape women for his sexual gratification, and further damage those same women’s reputations and careers to obscure his guilt, hurt not only his victims, but all women, and is beyond the pale.”
McShane concluded that since the University could no longer stand by the degree it had awarded Cosby, especially as a Jesuit institution.
A Fordham representative confirmed the president’s statement to TIME.
Multiple women have come forward over the last year with consistent stories of drugging and sexual abuse at the hands of Cosby over the last four decades, allegations that Cosby has consistently denied. But a recently uncovered deposition from 2005 shows Cosby admitting he used drugs and fame to convince women to sleep with him.
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