Others in Higher Ed Should Take High Road on Cosby - Higher Education


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Others in Higher Ed Should Take High Road on Cosby

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Well, it had to happen.

In a time when higher ed is under attack for the alarming number of sexual assaults on campus, do you really want a person who is being accused by dozens of women of sexual assault as a pitchman for your fundraising efforts?

As Bill Cosby might have answered in his very first comedy album that launched his career: “Right!”

It’s the sarcastic response. The correct answer is the opposite.

But before it did the right thing, the University of Massachusetts Amherst reportedly agonized over cutting ties with Cosby.

Last week, as a few more accusers stepped forward about Cosby and his alleged sexual m.o. (girls, drugs, unwanted sex), I wondered on this blog how much longer schools would look the other way as Cosby remained silent on the matter.

I suggested it was time for Cosby to address the issue. And then maybe he could seek refuge in the academic world where his dollars have been the lifeblood for many a school.

I especially was curious about UMass Amherst, where Cosby earned a masters and a doctorate in education. He’s also given the school nearly half a million, and helped raised more than a million more, according to reports.

Currently, he’s the poster boy and honorary co-chair of the school’s current $300 million campaign.

So, of course, when the Boston Globe first asked the school if Cosby was staying on, UMASS was all thumbs up.

But then a day later on Wednesday, just in time for the slow Thanksgiving news cycle where bad news can conveniently be buried in turkey and stuffing, the school reversed course.

UMass officials asked Cosby to step down from the capital campaign, and Cosby agreed to do so, according to university spokesman Edward Blaguszewski.

“He no longer has any affiliation with the campaign nor does he serve in any other capacity for the university,” Blaguszewski said in a statement.

Maybe, as reported in the Globe, it was the letter from Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley that forced the college’s hand:

“At a time when the state is focused on prevention and response to sexual assaults on campus, allowing Mr. Cosby to continue to represent our state university sends the exact wrong message,” Coakley wrote in a letter to the college.

“Although Mr. Cosby has not been criminally charged nor convicted for these actions, the UMass community has discretion to determine who should be the ‘face’ of the university at any time,” Coakley wrote in the letter, which was also sent to UMass system president Robert Caret and Henry Thomas, chairman of the system’s board.

“I believe the volume and disturbing nature of these allegations has reached a point where Mr. Cosby should no longer have a formal role at UMass, nor be involved in its fund-raising efforts, unless or until Mr. Cosby is able to satisfactorily respond to these allegations,” she added.

The schools in support of Cosby’s are beginning to cut and run.

Berklee College of Music in Boston has removed a scholarship in his name.

High Point University in North Carolina is also on the “Just say no to Bill” honor roll.

Temple University, Cosby’s alma mater, however, still has him on as a trustee for now and remains loyal.

Maybe they should read that Coakley letter for legal guidance, and take action.

If UMass can say no to Cosby, Temple and others should too.

Until Cosby breaks his silence, it’s not just the right thing to do. If your school is serious about respecting women and fighting campus sexual assaults, in regards to Cosby, it’s the only thing to do.

Emil Guillermo writes on issues of race, culture and politics  for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (www.aaldef.org/blog)  Like him at www.facebook.com/emilguillermo.media ; twitter@emilamok

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