University of Pennsylvania revokes degrees of Wynn, Cosby

MANILA, Philippines – The University of Pennsylvania decided to revoke the honorary degrees of Las Vegas casino billionaire Steve Wynn and actor Bill Cosby following allegations of sexual assault against the two.

In a message to the Penn Community on Thursday, February 1, Penn Board of Trustees chair David Cohen and university president Amy Gutmann said they "felt it was imperative to examine Mr Wynn's recognized presence on Penn's campus" after allegations of decades of sexual misconduct.

Wynn – a former Penn Trustee and College alumnus – recently stepped down as Republican National Committee finance chairman, a position he assumed after US President Donald Trump took office in January 2017.

According to Cohen and Gutmann, a small group of trustees, alumni, deans, and faculty deliberated on the nature of the charges against Wynn. The same group made recommendations to the executive committee of the Penn Board of Trustees.

"First, we will remove the name Wynn Commons, named for Mr Wynn, from the centrally located outdoor plaza bounded by Houston Hall, Claudia Cohen Hall, College Hall, and Irvine Auditorium," the announcement read.

"Second, Mr Wynn's name will be removed from a scholarship fund established by a donation from him. The scholarships will continue to be awarded. Third, we will revoke Mr Wynn's honorary degree."

The university also decided to revoke Cosby's honorary degree, saying that the "multiple and highly credible charges" against the actor "warranted the same action."

Around 60 women have publicly accused Cosby of being a serial sexual predator, but most of the alleged abuse happened too long ago to prosecute. 

Cosby went on trial in June 2017, after he was accused of drugging and molesting a former university basketball official at his Philadelphia home in 2004.

The University of Pennsylvania officials on Thursday said it has been a century since the university last revoked an honorary degree.

"Our nation is currently undergoing a profound reckoning regarding the role and extent of sexual misconduct in all areas of our society. It is incumbent on all of us to address these issues wherever and whenever we find that they affect our extended community," Cohen and Gutmann said.

They added: "As a University, we have always been, and will always continue to be, looked to by our alumni and neighbors, our faculty, and most of all by our students, for moral leadership. We must not – we cannot – fail to provide it." – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.

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