(Reuters) - Brown University has revoked the honorary doctorate it awarded to Bill Cosby as the comedian and actor faces allegations that he sexually assaulted more than 40 women, the Ivy League school said on Tuesday.
Brown becomes the third U.S. university in the past week to revoke honorary degrees to Cosby, best known for his role as Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” which was wildly popular in the 1980s.
The move follows similar decisions by New York’s Fordham University and Milwaukee’s Marquette University.
Dozens of women have accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them in the 1970s, though he has not been criminally charged and in most cases the alleged attacks are too old for prosecutors to take up. His lawyers have steadfastly denied wrongdoing by the 78-year-old entertainer.
The Cosby case is particularly sensitive to universities as the nation faces what the White House has called an “epidemic” of sex assault on college campuses, with a survey released last week showing that nearly one in four female undergraduates has experienced unwanted sexual contact.
According to court papers made public in July, Cosby in 2005 testified that he had obtained the sedative drug Quaaludes with the intention of giving them to young women and having sex with them.
“The conduct that Mr. Cosby has acknowledged is wholly inconsistent with the behavior we expect of any individual associated with Brown,” Christina Paxson, president of the university in Providence, Rhode Island, said in an open letter to the campus. “It is particularly troubling as our university community continues to confront the very real challenges of sexual violence on our campus and in society at large.”
A Cosby spokesman declined to comment on Brown’s move but on Friday, the actor’s lawyer said Fordham had overstated the case made by the deposition.
“Nothing in his testimony admits to any nonconsensual sexual contact with any woman whatsoever,” said Attorney John Schmitt. “Mr. Cosby has been convicted of no crime and has steadfastly maintained his innocence.”
A Los Angeles judge has ordered Cosby to give a sworn deposition on Oct. 9 in a lawsuit brought by a woman, now in her 50s, who contends he sexually abused her when she was 15 years old.
That would mark the first time Cosby has testified under oath about a complaint of sexual misconduct since the 2005 deposition, given in a Pennsylvania case he settled out of court.
Reporting by Scott Malone in Philadelphia; Editing by Matthew Lewis