Howard University has disavowed the support their new dean of Fine Arts, Phylicia Rashad, showed for her longtime friend Bill Cosby.
Rashad was one of the few people to applaud Pennsylvania Supreme Court officials’ decision to overturn her former “The Cosby Show” co-star’s 2018 sex crimes conviction and set him free on Wednesday (30Jun21), citing legal technicalities during his trial.
Reacting to the news of his release, the actress, who played the disgraced funnyman’s onscreen wife from 1984 to 1992, declared, “FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!”
Backlash ensued online, and Rashad subsequently returned to Twitter to insist she meant no offence with her original comment – although she notably stopped short of apologising for her ongoing support of Cosby.
“I fully support survivors of sexual assault coming forward,” she wrote. “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 uproar surrounding Rashad’s remarks prompted officials at Washington, D.C.’s Howard University, a historically black institution, to address the furore after recently appointing the actress as the Dean of Howard’s College of Fine Arts.
“Survivors of sexual assault will always be our priority,” begins a statement issued late on Wednesday.
“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.”
“Personal positions of University leadership do not reflect Howard University’s policies,” it continued, although it appears Rashad will retain her academic position.
“We will continue to advocate for survivors fully and support their right to be heard. 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.”