Bill Cosby was released from prison early, due to technicalities in the legal system. A former prosecutor reportedly made a deal with him for testimony, and the new District Attorney used that testimony to prosecute Cosby in the sexual assault of Andrea Constand in 2004. Serving just over two years of his sentence, the former actor was freed. Following that news, Phylicia Rashad, formerly a co-star on The Cosby Show and now the dean of Howard University, tweeted her joy at his release. She went so far as to say, “A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!” in her now-deleted tweet. This was seen by many as insensitive to sexual assault survivors. That is particularly concerning in the dean of a university, where sexual assault is a common issue. Now, she has posted a follow-up tweet, and the university has issued a letter.
You can see the follow-up tweet from Phylicia Rashad below.
Bill Cosby was convicted in the case of one of his accusers. The District Attorney on that case made it just in time before the statute of limitations timed out in her case. However, there are 60 women who have publicly come forward and made known that Bill Cosby assaulted them. In this case, Phylicia Rashad public celebration of his release did not go over well. The follow-up tweet was not seen as enough. She wrote a public apology letter on CNN.
Students and families are now concerned that if Rashad is sympathetic toward Bill Cosby after everything that has been made publicly known, and felt that an early release from prison was justice, that she is going to take a light approach to policies toward those who violate campus policies involving sexual assault. Can students feel like their dean is looking out for them when she publicly celebrates condemned rapists being freed early?
The university saw the need to speak up themselves about the Cosby incident, and have said, “Survivors of sexual assault will always be our priority. While Dean Rashad has acknowledged in her follow-up tweet that victims must be heard and believed, her initial tweet lacked sensitivity towards survivors of sexual assault. Personal positions of University leadership do not reflect Howard University’s policies. We will continue to advocate for survivors fully and support their right to be heard. Howard will stand with survivors and challenge systems that would deny them justice. We have full confidence that our faculty and school will live up to this sacred commitment.”
This public statement may have helped with some, but not everyone. Many have come to Twitter to express their disappointment in Phylicia Rashad for her support of Bill Cosby, their rage, and their requests that she be fired from Howard University.
It’s hard to understand when people we care about do terrible things. However, the dean of a university has bigger considerations when she speaks on these topics, particularly since she influences policies and decides how they’re handled. This situation for students at Howard University may be tense for a while as they move forward from this.