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Temple Sticks With Bill Cosby as Other Universities Sever Ties

Saturday, 29 Nov 2014 05:32 PM

Temple University is sticking by alumnus Bill Cosby while other colleges distance themselves from the comedian as he faces multiple sexual-assault allegations. There are efforts to get the Philadelphia-based campus to cut its ties.

Kerry Potter McCormick, an attorney and 2005 graduate of Temple, where Cosby has been a trustee since 1982, started a petition through the Change.org website calling for the university to end its relationship with him. The petition had attracted about almost 900 supporters by late yesterday.

“The burden should be higher for public institutions,” McCormick, 31, said in a telephone interview. “He shouldn’t be on the board of trustees and he shouldn’t be an invited guest on campus.”

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the Berklee College of Music in Boston are among schools that have severed ties with Cosby. Those breaks have come as colleges across the country are under the microscope for their handling of sexual assault on campus. The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating almost 90 colleges over their policies to prevent and respond to assault and harassment. Among those under scrutiny are Temple, UMass Amherst and Berklee.

Cosby, who portrayed a physician and family man for eight years on the hit TV series “The Cosby Show,” earned a bachelor’s degree from Temple in 1971. He received a master’s degree from UMass in 1972 and a doctorate in education there in 1977.

August Honoree

In August, Temple honored Cosby for his writing skills. Earlier this year, he was a speaker at commencement and spoke at an on-campus memorial service for businessman Lewis Katz, a fellow alumnus and trustee, according to Ray Betzner, a spokesman for the school.

“Dr. Cosby remains a member of the Temple University board of trustees,” Betzner said yesterday in a telephone interview.

When asked if Cosby had been asked to step down, Betzner said, “I’m not aware of any conversations along those lines.”

Betzner declined to comment about the online petition and a 2006 settlement between Cosby and former Temple employee Andrea Constand, who claimed he had drugged and sexually assaulted her in 2004. Cosby was represented at the time by Patrick O’Connor, the current chairman of Temple’s board of trustees.

Calls to David Brokaw, Cosby’s spokesman, weren’t returned.

Cosby faces multiple allegations of sexual assaults, some from decades ago. He hasn’t faced any prosecution tied to the accusations, though he settled the lawsuit filed by Constand.

UMass Amherst announced Nov. 26 that Cosby is no longer affiliated with its $300 million fundraising campaign.

Affiliation Dropped

“Bill Cosby has agreed to resign as an honorary co-chair” of the campaign, Ed Blaguszewski, a spokesman, said in an e- mail. “He no longer has any affiliation with the campaign nor does he serve in any other capacity for the university.”

Berklee, which gave Cosby an honorary degree in 2004, has removed his name from an online scholarship, Allen Bush, a spokesman for the music school, said yesterday. The school would have no further comment, he said.

High Point University in North Carolina, which appointed Cosby to its Board of Advisors in July, also took action this week.

“We are temporarily and respectfully suspending his name on the advisory board until all the information is in,” Pam Haynes, director of media relations for the school, said yesterday. “We respect Dr. Cosby’s professional achievements, appreciate his support of education, and are grateful for his involvement at HPU.”

Spelman Ties

Spelman College, a historically black women’s college in Atlanta, is a beneficiary of donations and support from Cosby and his wife Camille. The couple donated $20 million in 1988 to construct an academic center and also endowed a professorship. Two of the Cosby’s daughters attended the college.

The school “isn’t in discussions regarding changes to the terms of the gift,” Beverly Daniel Tatum, Spelman’s president, said in a statement on its website.

“Though it is not appropriate for the college to comment publicly on specific allegations against any individual, sexual assault is a profoundly serious issue for any educational institution,” Tatum wrote in the statement. “Please know that we do not condone sexual violence in any form and understand our critical role as a women’s college to lead in the fight against it.”

Several of Cosby’s one-man comedy shows have been canceled across the country. Netflix Inc. also postponed a Cosby special and NBC halted development of a TV series.

McCormick, the Temple alumna who started the online petition, said the actions by those companies are sending a stronger message than her alma mater.

“It says that Temple doesn’t care about this,” McCormick said.

 

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Temple University is sticking by alumnus Bill Cosby while other colleges distance themselves from the comedian as he faces multiple sexual-assault allegations. There are efforts to get the Philadelphia-based campus to cut its ties.Kerry Potter McCormick, an attorney and...
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Saturday, 29 Nov 2014 05:32 PM
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