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Dean at Howard Tweets in Support of Bill Cosby

July 1, 2021

A new dean at Howard University tweeted support for Bill Cosby after his sexual assault conviction was overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday, DCist reported.

Phylicia Rashad, Cosby’s former co-star on The Cosby Show, the hit sitcom of the mid-1980s and early 1990s, and the recently named dean of Howard’s College of Fine Arts, tweeted a picture of Cosby and wrote, “FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!”

Her tweet provoked widespread backlash on Twitter, including from some who questioned whether Rashad would support sexual assault survivors as dean, a position she was scheduled to start today.

Nylah Burton, an alumna who supports a mutual aid fund that provides aid to Howard students who have been victims of sexual assault, told DCist that based on Rashad's tweet, "she is absolutely unfit to be the dean, to lead students, to be a role model, and to be someone that they can trust."

“It’s really disappointing because, obviously she has a lot of talent, but her tweets today disqualify her, in my firm opinion, from being someone who should have responsibility over students,” Burton said.

Rashad published a subsequent tweet in which she wrote, “I fully support survivors of sexual assault coming forward. My post was in no way intended to be insensitive to their truth. Personally, I know from friends and family that such abuse has lifelong residual effects. My heartfelt wish is for healing.”

The second tweet did little to quell the criticism of Rashad and questions about whether her views could be seen as representing the views of the university. 

The university issued a statement on Twitter late Wednesday addressing Rashad's comments. 

“Survivors of sexual assault will always be our priority,” the statement said. “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."

The statement said that such "personal positions of University leadership" do not reflect university policies.

“We will continue to advocate for survivors fully and support their right to be heard,” it said. “Howard will stand with survivors and challenge systems that would deny them justice. We have full confidence that our faculty and school leadership will live up to this sacred commitment.”

Cosby was released three years into a 10-year prison sentence for drugging and assaulting Temple University athletics administrator Andrea Constand after Pennsylvania’s highest court ruled that the prosecutor in the case was bound by an agreement made by his predecessor not to prosecute him, according to the Associated Press.

The Washington Post reported in 2016 that at least 60 women have accused Cosby of raping or sexually harassing them, including dozens who say Cosby drugged them before the alleged assaults.

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