Howard University students are calling for Phylicia Rashad — former “Cosby Show” actress and current dean at the school’s Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts — to be fired from the university.
What’s a brief history here?
Rashad spoke up in defense of friend and former TV husband Bill Cosby’s release from prison after Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court overturned the embattled actor’s sexual assault conviction Wednesday.
In response to the news, Rashad — in a since-deleted tweet — wrote, “FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!”
After the backlash, Rashad added, “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.”
I fully support survivors of sexual assault coming forward. My post was in no way intended to be insensitive to the… https://t.co/jmXhcXKvOi
— Phylicia Rashad (@Phylicia Rashad)1625085343.0
Rashad made the remark just one day before beginning her career as dean at the university, which announced the appointment in May.
Following her statement, a spokesperson for Howard University said, “Survivors of sexual assault will always be our priority. 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.”
The statement continued, “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.”
— Howard University (@Howard University)1625107609.0
What was the campus reaction?
According to a Friday report in the
Los Angeles Times, Katherine Gilyard — a communications major at the university — joked several weeks ago “that she’d switch her major from the School of Communications to the College of Fine Arts just to learn” from the beloved actress.
“Now I wouldn’t walk past Fine Arts if she remains like the current dean of the school,” Gilyard says now according to the outlet. “To see how happy she was, rejoicing and thrilled that [Cosby’s conviction] has been overturned … I feel disgusted. That was like a very visceral reaction. My stomach kind of turned, like this is disgusting and not something you expect from someone like that. Yes, they should fire her, but knowing Howard, I don’t think they will.”
Alumna Nylah Burton told the outlet, “Howard should absolutely fire her because she’s not fit to be a dean of students. For someone like that, when they have such passionate support of a rapist, the fear is not just that you will be ignored or dismissed. The fear is that you’ll be retaliated against, that you’ll be attacked, and you’ll be punished for speaking out.”
Burton added, “It just does not surprise me that Phylicia Rashad tweeted out such exuberant support of Bill Cosby. But it’s really disappointing thinking about all the students who, like myself during my time at Howard, go through a sexual assault thinking, ‘OK, who do I turn to for support,’ and she’s the dean.”
An unnamed recent grad told the outlet that Rashad’s remarks disturbed her.
“I think that this situation is definitely cause for termination,” she said. “Just because she’s a dean and so many girls are just not going to feel comfortable going to the dean. [For] survivors, it’s already hard to feel like you can speak about what happened to you. A lot of women don’t feel safe speaking to just anyone about it, usually just their circle of friends or maybe family.”
According to a Friday report from the New York Post, the hashtag #ByePhilicia began trending following Rashad’s remarks.
One social media user according to the report demanded, “Hold her ass accountable.”
Another added, “I don’t think she deserves to lead the Chadwick A. Boseman School of Fine Arts. Not anymore.”
“I think it’s good that Phylicia Rashad spoke up and showed us she’s not qualified to be the Dean of the College of Fine Arts,” another alumni tweeted. “It’s really on Howard to do the right thing and rectify the situation.”