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November 09, 2015

UPenn not revoking Bill Cosby's honorary degree

Spokesman calls allegations 'troubling' but cites university policy in decision

Amid sexual assault allegations from more than 50 women against comedian Bill Cosby, the University of Pennsylvania will not rescind the Philadelphia native's honorary degree.

A statement from Vice President for University Communications Stephen J. MacCarthy reads: "While the allegations against Mr. Cosby are deeply troubling, it is not our practice to rescind honorary degrees."

That's not necessarily true, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian:

Despite this statement, Penn has previously rescinded two honorary degrees. German Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm II was awarded an honorary degree in 1905, and German Ambassador to the United States and Mexico Johann Heinrich von Bernstorff received one in 1911. Both had their degrees rescinded in 1918 following the United States’ diplomatic break with Germany during World War I.
When asked to clarify Penn’s policy, MacCarthy said, “I don’t have anything further that I can add.”

Cosby has a Doctorate of Laws from the university and spoke at the 1997 commencement, the newspaper reports. McCarthy did not immediately respond to a PhillyVoice request to explain the policy.

A number of colleges and universities have taken away similar degrees given to Cosby. Brown, Fordham, and Marquette universities all did so in September.

Yet as Vulture points out, 37 institutions - including Penn - still haven't. A collection of statements from university spokespersons compiled by Vulture range from saying the matter is being looked into or simply "no comment."

While Cosby has never been charged with a crime, legal pressure has been mounting against him.

In October, 24-year-old model Chloe Goins filed a sexual assault suit against Cosby, claiming he assaulted her when she was 15 and seeking $75,000 in damages. He testified under oath for the first time since allegations have been brought against him in response to the suit.

Additionally, newly elected Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele, a Democrat, could bring a case against Cosby from a 2005 complaint after defeating Republican Kevin Castor this month, legal experts say. Much of the campaign revolved around both candidates' intentions to pursue the case, reopened this year, in which prosecutors didn't originally file charges against him citing weak evidence.