Bill Cosby, the popular face of Temple University in advertisements, fundraising campaigns and commencement speeches, has resigned from the board of trustees following renewed accusations that he drugged and sexually assaulted more than a dozen women over many years.
Cosby, 77, resigned Monday from the seat he had held since 1982.
“I have always been proud of my association with Temple University. I have always wanted to do what would be in the best interests of the university and its students,” Cosby said in a statement issued by the school.
The sparse statement made no mention of claims from female acquaintances who say they were drugged and molested by the entertainer, best known as an easygoing TV dad. Instead, the board issued a one-line statement that thanked Cosby “for his service.”
At Temple, an online petition urging the university to cut ties with Cosby had garnered more than 1,000 signatures.
The accusations, although unproven, “got to the point where the reputation of the institution started to get dragged down with (them),” said Raymond Smeriglio, president of the student body.
Several other colleges also have severed their ties with Cosby in recent weeks. The Berklee College of Music will no longer award a scholarship in Cosby’s name, and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst had him step down as honorary co-chairman of its fundraising campaign.
“I do wish and hope that Temple would say something,” said senior Grace Holleran, the opinion editor of Temple News, as the staff worked to remake its lead story on Cosby before the weekly Monday night deadline.
“Temple would really drive home that it cares about victims of sexual assault if it stopped inviting him to talk on campus,” she said.
Cosby attended Temple in 1961-62 on a track and field athletic scholarship, but left early to pursue a career in comedy, returning a decade later to graduate with a bachelor’s degree.
Cosby almost never attended Temple board meetings over the years, but he was the university’s public face. He also frequently turned out to support the school’s basketball teams, an interest that connected him with the lone woman who filed suit against him.
Andrea Constand, who worked for the women’s basketball team, said she had socialized with Cosby and then sought him out for career advice. She said he drugged and molested her at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in early 2004.
Temple board chairman Patrick O’Connor, a Philadelphia lawyer, defended Cosby in the 2005 suit. Nearly a dozen women came forward to support Constand before the case was settled for undisclosed terms. New accusers stepped forward this fall, after a comedian called out Cosby as a rapist in his act.
Cosby has strongly denied wrongdoing and has never been criminally charged. A suburban Philadelphia prosecutor declined to press charges in Constand’s case.
“He didn’t comment (Monday) on the allegations,” said O’Connor, who accepted Cosby’s resignation. “They were from (as long as) 50 years ago.”
Cosby testified in Constand’s case that he gave the National Enquirer an exclusive interview about the suit in exchange for the tabloid spiking a story about a second accuser, Beth Ferrier.
“Did you ever think that if Beth Ferrier’s story was printed in the National Enquirer, that that would make the public believe that maybe Andrea was also telling the truth?” Cosby was asked.
“Exactly,” Cosby replied, according to court motions initially filed under seal and made available last week from archived federal court records.
A review of minutes to 138 board meetings held since 1982 suggests Cosby attended just one — in December 2002, when he was on campus to film a Temple women’s basketball commercial. But his commencement speeches were wildly popular, and he gave a welcome lecture to freshmen classes called “Cosby 101.”
Trustee Anthony McIntyre said the latest accusations presented a “no-win situation” for the Temple community.
“It’s a tragedy for all,” McIntyre said.