College Rescinds Cosby’s Honorary Degree

Honorary Chief Hospital Corpsman Bill Cosby delivers remarks during his pinning ceremony at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jay M. Chu/Released)

Cosby was the 1997 Commencement Speaker at Gettysburg College (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jay M. Chu/Released)

By Benjamin Pontz, Managing News Editor

The Gettysburg College Board of Trustees has decided to rescind Bill Cosby’s honorary degree, which he received in 1997 after serving as the Commencement Speaker. The decision was made by a vote of at least two-thirds of the Board, which “determined that the actions or inactions of the honorary degree recipient have been in violation of federal or state law and/or the values expressed in the Gettysburg College Mission Statement.”

The decision comes on the heels of Cosby’s conviction on three counts of aggravated indecent assault last Friday.

Throughout the week prior to the meeting, Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA) and College Democrats circulated a petition that garnered more than 60 signatures advocating the removal of the degree. The petition was sent to Gettysburg President Janet Morgan Riggs and Dean of Students Julie Ramsey Friday afternoon, Andrew Dalton, President of College Democrats, said.

By that time, however, the Board of Trustees had already voted to rescind the degree, Jamie Yates, Executive Director of Communications and Media Relations, said in an email to The Gettysburgian.

In revoking the degree, Gettysburg joined a growing number of institutions — including Temple University, Cosby’s alma mater — to take that step.

Julia Burgess, Co-President of SASA, said she wanted Cosby’s degree to be revoked because his conduct stands at odds with Gettysburg’s institutional values.

“Our college is one that upholds values of respect, dignity, authenticity, honesty, curiosity and leadership,” she said in a statement to The Gettysburgian earlier in the week. “Cosby violated those values.”

This story was updated at 10:51 p.m. on Saturday evening.

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Author: Benjamin Pontz

Benjamin Pontz '20 serves as managing news editor of The Gettysburgian, a position he has held since the middle of his first year. In four semesters, he has written more than 100 articles on topics ranging from student activism on campus to sports. Ben previously served as the event coverage and social media coordinator and led the paper's inaugural efforts using Facebook Live and live tweeting events on campus. Aside from The Gettysburgian, he is a peer research mentor in Musselman Library, a research assistant in the political science department, and drum major of the Bullets Marching Band. He is a political science and public policy double major with a minor in music, and he reads up to seven newspapers daily. Follow him on Twitter @benpontz.

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