Following Universities Like Bryant, UConn Revokes Honorary Degree For Bill Cosby

Jun 29, 2016

UConn student Haddiyyah Ali got an email from a woman whose story floored her. The woman was working at talent agency in 1965, when she says Bill Cosby invited her to a party at his house.

“When she got there, there was nobody else there," Ali said.

The woman said she was drugged, and woke up to Cosby assaulting her.

Ali is one of several students who have led an effort to revoke Cosby's honorary fine arts degree. She wrote about it for the college newspaper in January. And as a student government senator, she drafted a resolution seeking to revoke Cosby's degree, which students unanimously passed in March.

"I'm not sure if it would have been on the agenda today if students hadn't started this," said Daniel Byrd, UConn's student body president.

Taking the students' lead, the college's Board of Trustees also voted unanimously to revoke the degree, the first step of it's kind in UConn's history. The university joins at least eight others that have taken similar measures, including Bryant and Brown Universities in Rhode Island.

Cosby was given the UConn degree in 1996 -- the college gave another honorary degree that same year to Sanford Cloud, who's now on UConn's board of trustees. Cloud says UConn has a zero tolerance policy for sexual assaults on campus, and honorary degree holders should be held to the same standard.

“ Had the academic affairs committee known what it knows now, would it have recommended an honorary degree? The answer is clearly, probably not,” Cloud said.

UConn Student Haddiyyah Ali says she showed up to the vote thinking of Jane Doe number 12, one of Cosby's alleged victims who's now part of a lawsuit against the comedian.

"This man cannot be a member of our community,” said Ali. “This is not something that we support. This is not something we endorse. This is not something we allow to happen, and we are going to hold everyone accountable for their actions."

Cosby has not been convicted of any crime, but he has admitted to using his fame, along with various drugs, to seduce women, according to court depositions. He's also filed counter-suits against several of his accusers. A Cosby representative could not be reached for comment for this story.