Spelman suspends Cosby chair in wake of growing sexual assault claims

The Cosby Chair for the Humanities, a prestigious endowed professorship at Spelman College, funded in part by a $20 million gift that Bill and Camille Cosby gave to the school in the 1980s, has been suspended indefinitely while the comedian and actor deals with almost daily allegations of sexual assaults.

The all-female school confirmed the decision late Sunday after sources tipped off The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“The William and Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Endowed Professorship was established to bring positive attention and accomplished visiting scholars to Spelman College in order to enhance our intellectual, cultural and creative life,” a school spokeswoman said. “The current context prevents us from continuing to meet these objectives fully. Consequently, we will suspend the program until such time that the original goals can again be met.”

Audrey Arthur, a spokeswoman for the college, said officials at the 133-year-old school would not comment further.

The Spelman decision follows Cosby’s resignation after 32 years as a member of the board of trustees at Temple University and his resignation as an honorary co-chair of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s capital campaign. Cosby got his master’s and doctorate in education from the university in the 1970s.

High Point University in North Carolina also removed him from its national board of advisers, and the Berklee School of Music stopped granting a scholarship in his name.

Best-selling novelist, playwright and former Cosby Chair Pearl Cleage said the suspension was the right move.

“In light of the current accusations against Mr. Cosby, it’s appropriate to suspend the chair while the college reevaluates the relationship with Mr. Cosby, moving forward,” said Cleage, a Spelman alumna.

While some Spelman students supported Cosby, there were some students who protested Cosby’s association with the college using the Twitter hashtag #NotMyFather, referring to Cosby’s television persona.

In 1987, the Cosbys, whose daughters attended Spelman, gave the single largest donation ever awarded to a historically black college.

The endowed chair, which along with Cleage, has been held by the likes of Tananarive Due, awards professorships in the fine arts, humanities, and the social sciences.

Along with the endowed chair, the donation also helped pay for the construction of the gleaming Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby, Ed.D. Academic Center, which houses the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, the college archives and offices.

The Cosby gift came at the height of his powers as an entertainer and philanthropist. At the time of donation, he was starring in the landmark “Cosby Show,” and had developed the groundbreaking, “A Different World,” which for the first time in television history, focused solely on a historically black college.

The show has even been credited with increasing interest and enrollment at HBCUs, including Spelman, Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University.

But the Cosby Empire has slowly and very publicly been crumbling under the weight of countless allegations that he drugged and sexually assaulted several women. In allegations that date as far back as the 1960s, more than two dozen women have claimed that Cosby drugged and raped them.

Last week, super model Beverly Johnson, became the most high profile accusers, claiming that Cosby drugged her in the 1980s during a “Cosby Show” audition. She said she was able to get away without being raped.

Cosby, 77, had been mum on the allegations. But on Friday, he spoke briefly to the New York Post. He did not address the rape allegations, but offered a lecture to the black media.

“Let me say this,” Cosby told the New York Post. “I only expect the black media to uphold the standards of excellence in journalism and when you do that you have to go in with a neutral mind.”

He also said that his wife was holding up through the controversy with, “Love and the strength of womanhood. Let me say it again, love and the strength of womanhood. And, you could reverse it, the strength of womanhood and love.”

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