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Ohio State Officials Revoke Bill Cosby's Honorary Degree

Corey Perrine
Associated Press
Bill Cosby walks back to courtroom C after a break in his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse, Wednesday, April 4, 2018, in Norristown, Pa.

Ohio State University trustees voted on Friday to rescind the honorary doctoral degree of Bill Cosby. It's the first time the university has ever taken back an honorary degree. 

The university conferred an honorary doctorate of education on Cosby in 2001, when Cosby gave the commencement address at the spring graduation.

“By his own admission, Bill Cosby violated our university’s principles and values," the university said in a statement. "As the university has not previously revoked an honorary degree, administrators and faculty leaders worked to establish a formal process to move this proposal forward. The resolution was unanimously passed by the Board of Trustees today, and Mr. Cosby’s honorary degree has been revoked.”

In light of the comedian's ongoing sexual assault litigation, school officials have been rethinking that decision. The Academic Affairs and Student Life Committee of the school Board of Trustees quietly advanced the motion on Thursday.

The move comes as Cosby returns to a Pennsylvania courtroom to face criminal charges stemming from his alleged assault of Andrea Constand in 2004. The case begins Monday, NPR reports, as Cosby faces "three counts of aggravated indecent assault for allegedly drugging and molesting Andrea Constand."

When the case first went to trial in 2017, the jury deadlocked, and the judge declared a mistrial. More than 50 women have accused Cosby of assault, all the way back to the 1960s.

Cosby has received almost 60 honorary degrees over his lifetime, but in the wake of the assault allegations, several schools have acted to take them back. The University of Pennsylvania, the University of Connecticut, the University of Missouri, Brown University and others already voted to rescind degrees.

Other schools have removed Cosby's names from buildings, scholarships and similar honors, including Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. The historically black college renamed its Camille O. & William H. Cosby Communications Center in 2015.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.