WATERVILLE — Colby College officials say an honorary degree awarded to comedian Bill Cosby in 1992 will be rescinded in light of his conviction last week on multiple accounts of indecent assault.

“Following Bill Cosby’s conviction last week on multiple counts of sexual assault, the Colby College Board of Trustees has voted unanimously to rescind the honorary degree he received in 1992,” a statement issued Wednesday by the college says. “Colby will also convene a group of students, faculty, staff, and trustees to review its policies regarding rescission of honorary degrees. While rescinding this honorary degree is an important statement about Colby’s values, the College is committed to strengthening its systems, policies, programs, and culture toward the goal of eliminating sexual violence in its community.”

Colby announced the decision to rescind Cosby’s degree just hours after the Morning Sentinel sent an inquiry to the college about the matter.

Cosby, 80, was convicted Thursday on three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and raping women and faces up to 10 years in prison for each count.

The star of the hit television sitcom “The Cosby Show,” Cosby is among several high-profile and powerful men who recently have been held accountable for allegations of sexual assault and misconduct.

On Tuesday, Yale University was the latest university to revoke an honorary degree for Cosby, representing the first time the university has revoked an honorary degree in its 300-year history.

Temple University, Cosby’s alma mater, the University of Notre Dame and Boston College are among other schools that have revoked Cosby degrees following his conviction.

Some students at Colby supported removing the comedian’s degree, according to Sophie Langlois, a freshman who recently wrote an opinion piece in the student newspaper, the Colby Echo, calling on school officials to revoke Cosby’s degree.

Langlois, 19, said she was inspired to write her opinion piece after a discussion about Cosby in a women’s history course.

Langlois said most of the students are female and nearly all supported revoking Cosby’s degree.

She said after Wednesday’s announcement that she is “very excited and impressed that Colby made the right decision in revoking his honorary degree.”

“I hope that this statement and precedent will open the College up not only to further conversation, but also further action and policy in regards to sexual assault on the Colleges campus,” Langlois said in an email. “I am giving the college the benefit of the doubt and hope that they will continue to stay on the right side of history and establish positions on crucial matters like this down the road.”

Several well-known universities, including Brown, Fordham and Marquette, rescinded honorary degrees for Cosby in 2015 following allegations by about 50 women that he had drugged or sexually assaulted them.

At the time, Colby’s board of trustees issued a statement saying the college does not rescind honorary degrees, but it “shares the deep concerns expressed by many about the conduct attributed to Mr. Cosby.

“The board believes that the most appropriate and meaningful way to address both this situation and the disturbing prevalence of sexual misconduct revealed in surveys is to ensure that Colby becomes a leader in sexual violence prevention, education, and support,” the statement said. “We strongly support the administration as it works to build upon existing programs and create new, innovative ways to confront this problem on our campus and make a broader impact.”

On Monday, Colby hosted guest speaker Tara Burke, who founded the #MeToo movement on social media that has encouraged many women to come forward with their own stories of sexual assault and harassment in the wake of allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

“She did mention him directly in her talk, and she also talked a lot about how schools don’t want to be on the wrong side of history, whether because of their moral compass or sometimes because they don’t want to be in a bad light in the media,” Langlois said.

Staff writer Amy Calder contributed to this story.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

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Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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