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Do not be too hasty to pull Cosby’s degree

| Wednesday, February 24, 2016

I would like to suggest a simple solution to the question of Bill Cosby’s honorary degree. If there is ever a court finding, either civil or criminal, that determines Cosby engaged in behavior for which a Notre Dame employee would be fired or a student expelled, then it would be appropriate for the University to formally consider revoking the degree. Indeed, it may be difficult to justify not revoking it.

Until there is a court finding, however, revoking the degree would amount to declaring a man guilty based on a trial-by-news-media. Accepted standards like “beyond a reasonable doubt,” “preponderance of evidence” and the right to cross-examine would not be met.

As damaging and appalling as the deposition testimony is, there remain many gray-area questions to which we cannot know the answers. What else is in the parts of the deposition that were not released? What is the full story of what really happened? How much of it was consensual? Why did the original D.A. decide not to prosecute? Only a court would have access to all the information and be able to ensure American standards of fairness and justice are met. And what would we do if, in spite of everything, a court eventually determined Cosby is not guilty?

A decision to wait until there is a court finding would also provide the beginning of a policy framework for dealing with any future situations involving honorary degree recipients. It would set the bar high, but it would draw a very clear line so that, in the rare cases when the line is crossed, the University’s considered response could be both well-founded and defensible.

Peter Jeffery
Michael P. Grace II Professor of Medieval Studies
Feb. 19

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • what no really

    “Accepted standards like “beyond a reasonable doubt,” “preponderance of evidence” and the right to cross-examine would not be met.”

    Uhhhmmmm, these are standards for criminal convictions. That’s not necessary to revoke an essentially meaningless honorary degree. Having literally dozens of women accuse the same man of sexual assault should be sufficient. Unless you think they’re all lying. I find it incredibly annoying when people want to conflate everything with the criminal justice system. The honorary degree system is separate and doesn’t have any reason to adhere to those standards.

    • Razerzpeed

      NO CONSEQUENCES UNTIL GUILT IS DETERMINED IN A **FAIR** COURT OF LAW. PERIOD.

      • what no really

        That is an interesting standard to apply. I guess no one could ever be expelled for egregious academic dishonesty or something.

    • RandallPoopenmeyer

      The criminal justice system is IMPORTANT!
      People should not be able to make decisions willy nilly because a few people make the same claim. The honorary degree system is incredibly stupid in the first place, and I am wondering how many places gave Cosby his money back, you know, the money he donated to get the degree in the first place.

      • what no really

        Dozens. Not a few.

        • RandallPoopenmeyer

          That doesn’t help their case. Dozens of women, darn near almost 60, and only ONE came forward immediately.
          Yea, they are real victims. If they didn’t think what happened back then was important, why do they think it is important now?

          • what no really

            So you think dozens of women are lying about having been sexually assaulted? Do I really need to link you to something explaining why sexual assaults are under-reported?

          • RandallPoopenmeyer

            What you or I believe doesn’t matter. What matters is the evidence. Hearsay is not evidence.

          • what no really

            I don’t think you know what hearsay is.

          • RandallPoopenmeyer

            Hearsay is something that can’t be proven. A rumor.

          • what no really

            No. Hearsay is an out of court statement offered into evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted. A victim’s testimony is evidence.

          • RandallPoopenmeyer

            If an alleged victim’s testimony is evidence, then so is the alleged perpetrator’s.

          • RandallPoopenmeyer

            I don’t care about what is under reported. If they didn’t think their assault was worthy of justice, then they obviously didn’t think they were raped. Don’t even try this bs with me. I am a victim of sexual assault, and it pis*es me off to no end when people cant come forward. You know, maybe I wouldn’t have been a victim if someone had come forward in the first place!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!