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January 26, 2016

Tensions rising between Temple's faculty senate and trustees over Bill Cosby

Law professor behind move to revoke Philadelphia comedian's honorary degree dismayed at university's inaction

Temple University, which employed Andrea Constand when its benefactor and most famous graduate, Bill Cosby, allegedly drugged her and then forcibly sexually assaulted her, has not rescinded its honorary degree to the comedy legend turned pariah.

And it appears the school has no plans to revoke the honor.

Brandon Lausch, a spokesman for the school, said "Honorary degrees are granted by the university's board of trustees. It would take an action of the board to rescind a degree. As far as I'm aware, the board has not discussed this."

The university’s student newspaper, The Temple News, reports an internal squabble over the inaction in some detail Tuesday.

The school’s faculty senate called for revocation of the honorary degree last month, an action in keeping with measures taken by more than 30 other schools as details of Cosby’s pattern of alleged bad behavior piles up.

The law professor behind the call to strip Cosby of his honorary degree alleged Tuesday that the university has taken no action due to a major conflict of interest.

"The chair of Temple's Board of Trustees, Patrick O'Connor of Cozen O'Connor, is one of Cosby's main lawyers," said Angel Marina by email from Japan, where she is at a Temple satellite campus. 

"He has a clear conflict of interest in representing Cosby as his attorney and representing the best interests of Temple University," she added.

O'Connor, who was given an honorary degree from Temple in 2013, was not immediately available for comment.

A legal hearing one-week from today in Norristown will determine if the sexual assault charges brought against Cosby for those 12-year-old allegations involving Constand will go forward—or not.

The hearing next week is limited to the issue of whether or not a verbal assurance from a former district attorney, made during settlement of the civil charges that Cosby will not be criminally prosecuted, is valid – or not.

Constand, the former director of operations for Temple's women’s basketball team, settled a civil suit alleging Cosby had drugged and sexually assaulted her inside his Cheltenham house in 2004. 

She has not responded to requests for comment, though her lawyer has acknowledged that the criminal charges stem from Constand's civil case. For his part, Cosby, speaking in a deposition, has described the encounter with her as consensual. 

Constand, who has agreed not to speak publicly as a condition of her case's settlement, has acknowledged she is lesbian.

Expected to testify is former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor who has said he promised not to criminally charge Cosby as a result of the settlement of Constand's case.

District Attorney Kevin Steele, who beat Castor in the election for district attorney last fall, intends to argue the immunity agreement is not binding.

Details of the allegations against Cosby will not be heard at the hearing to take place on Ground Hog’s Day, just the question of whether or not Cosby is immune from criminal prosecution as a result of Castor’s pledge.