SA Senate condemns University decision to not revoke Cosby degree

CCAS Senator Erika Feinman introduces a bill condemning the University for not revoking Bill Cosby's honorary degree to the Student Association on Monday night. Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Sen. Erika Feinman, CCAS-U, introduces a bill condemning the University for not revoking Bill Cosby’s honorary degree Monday night. Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The Student Association Senate unanimously voted to formally condemn the University’s decision not to revoke Bill Cosby’s honorary degree Monday night.

Senators and other student leaders who spoke at the meeting said that not ever revoking a degree before is not a suitable reason for the University to not revoke Cosby’s degree, which was awarded to Cosby when he was Commencement speaker in 1997. More than 50 women have now accused the former star of “The Cosby Show” of drugging and sexual assaulting them. Cosby has admitted that at least some parts of the allegations are true, and in recent months dozens of institutions have been pressed to revoke degrees given to Cosby.

Four senators sponsored the resolution and eight senators co-sponsored it. Student leaders like Panhellenic Association President Mollie Bowman and President of the Colonial Army Kate Bell voiced their support for the bill during public comment.

Bowman, who said she spoke on behalf of the Greek community and “as a woman on this campus,” said Cosby does not align with the values of GW.

“I would not be proud to receive my degree from the same university that would give somebody who’s hurt so many people the same privilege,” she said.

Sen. Thomas Falcigno, CCAS-U and Sen. Erika Feinman, CCAS-U, said they asked multiple officials for meetings to discuss the honorary degree, including University President Steven Knapp, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Planning Forrest Maltzman, Provost Steven Lerman and Carrie Ross, the assistant director of sexual assault prevention and training. They said they only received a response from Ross, but did not meet with her.

Lauren Courtney, the director of policy and community outreach of Students Against Sexual Assault, said Cosby is “certainly not” somebody GW should affiliate itself with.

“When a university decides to bestow an honorary degree upon someone, they are aligning that person with values and views of that university. We are actively telling these 51 survivors that Bill Cosby is a honorable man,” she said. “The excuse that it has never been University tradition to revoke an honorary degree is simply not valid, because it was not until relatively recently that it was University tradition to care about survivors of sexual violence.”

The SA Senate also elected seven new senators to open committee positions and appointed Amanda Breslauer and Matilda Bress, both freshmen, to Deputy Chiefs of Staff for Policy and Operations.

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