March 24, 2016
Dear Berklee Community,
I am writing to inform you that the college’s Board of Trustees has voted to rescind the honorary degree presented to Bill Cosby in 2004. He has been informed of this action.
In recently unsealed personal testimony, Cosby admitted to actions that betray a blatant disregard for human dignity. What is described in his own words in this public record is wholly at odds with everything Berklee stands for. In response to this testimony, the president’s cabinet asked the college’s honors committee to review the matter and consider whether to rescind the honorary degree, a precedent-setting decision.
Cosby has been an American role model whose public persona transcended cultures and broke down racial barriers. He has been an active spokesperson for the value of education and an impassioned jazz supporter. These were chief among the reasons he was presented with the honor. Many members of the committee have met him, and have worked with him professionally. This was a painful and sad deliberation for all of those who participated.
The 19 members of the honors committee, composed of faculty, chairs, deans, and staff, brought a thoughtful and open-minded approach to the discussion, valuing all observations, concerns, and questions. Weighing this decision called for a close examination of our values as an educational institution, and as an engaged participant in our society. As part of this process, we have clarified and strengthened our criteria for selection, and are screening nominees more thoroughly than in the past.
Choosing the individuals we honor and present to our students is one very important way we signal the values of our institution. Taking this into careful consideration, the recommendation of the honors committee, and the decision of the Board of Trustees, was to rescind this honorary degree.
Roger H. Brown
President, Berklee College of Music