Baylor University rescinded the honorary degree given to entertainer Bill Cosby last Thursday. The degree was presented to Cosby in 2003 when he visited the school to perform for the Baylor student body and faculty.
Many years later, the former comedian found himself in hot water. Cosby has been in the national limelight amid multiple past sexual assault accusations. A man once adored and respected for a wholesome style of comedy is now alleged to have kept years of darkness under wraps in his private life.
Though it probably comes with reluctance and disappointment, Baylor made the right call to revoke Cosby’s honorary degree.
Several other universities preceded Baylor in rescinding the honorary degrees given to Cosby, and several other universities are likely to follow. In other words, Baylor’s not first to the table in yanking an honorary degree. But Baylor most certainly decided it would be in one of the first waves of universities to make that statement.
However, Cosby’s recent allegations of sexual assault come at a similarly bad time for Baylor in 2015. In light of the Sam Ukwuachu sexual assault case involving a former football player earlier this semester, Baylor’s reputation as a school that takes initiative in the fight against sexual assault is in crisis mode. It is mainly for this reason that Baylor made the right decision in removing Cosby’s honorary degree.
This is a statement of initiative and affirmative action from Baylor. The school can no longer lay low on the issue of sexual assault.
What is so compelling, however, about this situation between Cosby and Baylor is the context of his visit to campus after a rough summer for the university. To put things in perspective of what happened that summer of 2003: one Baylor basketball player murdered one of his teammates, the school was investigated and punished for several NCAA violations and head basketball coach Dave Bliss resigned in the aftermath of the aforementioned chaos that occurred.
Because of those hardships on campus, Cosby came to perform and heal the Bears after facing a beating in the national media. Surely, that gesture from the comedian was a noble one and appreciated by the Baylor family.
Of his own accord, the comedian wanted to give the gift of laughter to a downtrodden community, and in return, the school showed its thanks by awarding him this now-revoked distinction. It’s especially tragic that Cosby, a man who helped Baylor in a dire time of need, has now essentially been erased from the annals of the university’s history.
Nevertheless, removing Cosby’s degree was an action of in favor of Baylor’s renewed dedication. The ball is in Baylor’s court, and removing his degree gets the school that much closer to its goal of zero-tolerance for sexual assault. Though Cosby’s crimes are still allegations at this point, Baylor cannot associate itself with it during such sensitive times.