News & Politics

Howard University Disavows Dean Phylicia Rashad’s Statement on Bill Cosby

"Survivors of sexual assault will always be our first priority," the school's statement said

Howard University released a statement on its Twitter last night disavowing Dean Phylicia Rashad’s Twitter commentary about Bill Cosby’s release from prison.

“Survivors of sexual assault will always be our first priority,” the statement reads. “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 tweet read. “Personal positions of University leadership do not reflect Howard University’s policies. 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.”

The recently appointed dean of Howard’s Chadwick Boseman College of Fine Arts, Rashad tweeted yesterday in support of Cosby’s release. “FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!” her tweet read, accompanied by a recent photo of Cosby, her on-screen husband in “The Cosby Show.”

Thousands of Twitter users expressed outrage over Rashad’s post, including Howard alums who questioned how Rashad could effectively serve as dean given her support for an individual convicted of sexual assault. Cosby’s release is related to a purported violation of his Fifth Amendment rights in court proceedings, not the definitive question of his innocence. 60 women have have come forward to accuse him of sexual assault or harassment.

In response to the strong reaction, Rashad tapped out a follow-up tweet four hours later. “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.”

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Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.