Amid a resurgence in allegations of sexual misconduct dating back to the 1960s, prominent alumnus and famed comedian Bill Cosby on Monday resigned from Temple’s Board of Trustees, a position he held since 1982.
“I have always been proud of my association with Temple University,” Cosby said in a statement made available by the university. “I have always wanted to do what would be in the best interests of the university and its students. As a result, I have tendered my resignation from the Temple University Board of Trustees.”
A Temple response to the statement noted the board’s acceptance of Cosby’s resignation and gave thanks “for his service to the university.”
Cosby, 77, resigned amid pressure from media and some alumni for Temple to address the allegations and after four other universities cut ties with him in some way. Cosby has never been charged with a crime about any of the allegations, and his lawyers vehemently denied them.
A petition that circulated on change.org calling for Cosby’s removal from the board had almost 1,100 signatures prior to the announcement of the resignation.
“It’s time for Temple to recognize that continuing its relationship with Bill Cosby is damaging to its own reputation, as well as its students, employees and alumni,” the petition webpage read.
Chairman Patrick O’Connor defended Cosby in 2005 when a former Temple basketball employee, Andrea Constand, accused the then-trustee of molesting her at his Cheltenham mansion. The lawsuit was settled out of court.
Several women came forward last month, including former model Janice Dickinson, former actress Barbara Bowman and lawyer Tamara Green.
After coverage of the allegations heightened, Netflix and NBC both canceled comedy specials Cosby was involved with and universities including the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and High Point University in North Carolina cut ties with him.
Eight trustees did not return requests for comment, which The Temple News left at their offices on Monday. Two more deferred to a university spokesman, who until the resignation was tendered around 4 p.m. said only that Cosby remained a trustee. Reached at her Narberth home, trustee Loretta Duckworth declined to comment.
Cosby was unanimously re-elected to his spot on the Board in an Oct. 14 meeting, which he did not attend. Since he serves as one of 24 university-selected trustees, his seat will be filled at the Board’s discretion. The other 12 trustees are appointed by commonwealth officials including the governor, speaker of the State House of Representatives and president pro tempore of the State Senate.
Student Body President Ray Smeriglio read Cosby and Temple’s statements at Temple Student Government’s general assembly meeting, held as scheduled at 4 p.m., around the time the news broke.
“Students, from what we could qualify, were concerned given the national climate of sexual misconduct across the country as well as concerned about the media frenzy that occurred around the allegations and what it does to the value of their Temple degree,” Smeriglio said in an interview after the meeting.
“Students will be content with him stepping down, because it sets the right message for Temple University as we continue to strive to be a school of openness and talking about the conversation, and supporting the victims of sexual misconduct,” he added.
Students who were interviewed prior to the announcement of the resignation both questioned and defended Cosby’s persona in wake of the allegations.
“It’s very disheartening,” junior secondary education major Mike McCool said. “I don’t admire him in the least anymore. I’m disgusted by him. He’s nothing to me anymore, personally.”
McCool hopes the recent allegations help to expose the broader issue of sexual assault in general.
“The recent allegations made against him show that there is in fact a rape culture … and that it has been masked for the past several decades,” McCool added. “Now finally, it seems to me, from the way the media is portraying it, that rape culture is hopefully beginning to be dismantled … or at least, shown and made aware of.”
Deven Strabala, a junior mechanical engineering major, said she thinks many accusers might not be truthful themselves.
“I personally think it’s bogus,” Strabala said. “And all of these people are [trying to] do something about it now. Why now? Why wouldn’t you do it when it first happened?”
Even if Cosby actually did assault those individuals that have publicly spoken, Strabala added that it may be too late to prove anything.
“Granted, if it did happen, that’s really awful, but they should have done something about it,” she said. “Because now they can’t go back and test any of the women to see if they were drugged … or to see if there was any sexual activity going on.”
The board’s next public meeting is scheduled for Dec. 9.
Joe Brandt, Steve Bohnel and Lian Parsons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org