A woman who says Bill Cosby drugged and raped her in the early 1990s, visual artist and performer Lili Bernard, has asked Johns Hopkins University to rescind the honorary degree they awarded to Cosby in 2004.
Bernard, the parent of a Johns Hopkins University freshman, made the request in a formal presentation to university officials on Saturday, during JHU Family Weekend, accompanied by seven members of a student-run advocacy group, the Sexual Assault Resource Unit (SARU).
“They listened to what she had to say, listened to witnesses to what happened and now we’re waiting to see what they do,” said Ella Rogers-Fett, co-director of SARU, who was at the meeting.
Jason Kravitz, a university spokesman, confirmed that Bernard had made the request and issued the following statement:
“Johns Hopkins University is deeply troubled by the reports and allegations regarding Bill Cosby. As a university, Johns Hopkins has a set of values we seek to uphold and we are actively reviewing this matter. We exercise great care and deliberation in awarding an honorary degree and would do so in the event of revoking one. We always welcome and take into account input from members of our community on important issues such as this one.”
Cosby addressed the graduating seniors of the College of Arts and Science and Engineering at their commencement in May 2004 and was awarded an honorary degree of doctor of humane letters.
Other recipients that year included Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Hamilton O. Smith, a co-winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize in Medicine who had served on the School of Medicine faculty.
According to Kravitz, Hopkins has never revoked an honorary degree before.
Universities Pressed to Rescind
Bernard alleged in May that she was drugged and raped when she was guest starring in the final season of The Cosby Show.
Bernard is one of dozens of women who have come forward since 2014 with allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior, drugging and rape. The 78-year-old actor and comedian has denied that he broke the law.
In a deposition made public this year, Cosby said drugs and fame helped him seduce women.
Colleges and universities who have awarded Cosby honorary degrees (The New York Times recently found 60 of them) have been under pressure to rescind them, and many have done so.
Fordham, Marquette and Brown universities and the University of San Francisco are among the schools that have taken back honorary degrees awarded to the entertainer.
Earlier this month, Goucher College rescinded a doctorate of humane letters awarded to Cosby in 2001.
Yale University has declined to follow suit. Locally, the University of Maryland and University of Baltimore have made no decision to revoke degrees they had awarded to Cosby.
SARU is supporting Bernard in part to improve the University’s response to sexual assault allegations, said Rogers-Fett, citing litigation and Title IX complaints pursued by the U.S. Department of Education.
“We tried to convey in the meeting what this gesture would mean to those of us who have lived through the mishandling of past sexual assault cases,” she said.