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 served as Editor-in-Chief of The Gettysburgian from 2018 until 2020, Managing News Editor from 2017 until 2018, News Editor in the spring of 2017, and Staff Writer during the fall of 2016. During his tenure, he wrote 232 articles. He led teams that won two first place Keystone Press Awards for ongoing news coverage (once of Bob Garthwait's resignation, and the other of Robert Spencer's visit to campus) and was part of the team that wrote a first-place trio of editorials in 2018. He also received recognition for a music review he wrote in 2019. A political science and public policy major with a music minor, he graduated in May of 2020 and will pursue a master's degree in public policy on a Fulbright Scholarship at the University of Manchester before enrolling in law school.

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