Bill Cosby: Can His Reputation Recover at Black Colleges? Maybe Not.

The comedian's reputation at black colleges may never recover.

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When Bill Cosby, “the father of America,” walked slowly into a Pennsylvania courthouse with the assistance of a walker in late 2015 and answered to charges that he drugged and sexually assaulted a woman, he appeared to trip over something but recovered from the stumble.

Just a month later, Hampton University in Virginia announced that Cosby no longer serves on the university’s board of trustees following more than 60 women who made sexual assault allegations against Cosby over the years, and Hampton may not be the last black college to cut ties with Cosby—and the reputation of Cosby may never recover.

This is quite the fall from grace for one of the only black celebrities who actually can be recognized with helping to promote the mission of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) all over the country. (Cosby’s hit TV show The Cosby Show and its spin-off, A Different World, set at the fictional Hillman College, both helped to increase the attendance at black colleges by 24 percent from 1984 to 1993, according to the leader at Dillard University Walter Kimbrough, also known as “Hip-Hop Prez” to many of his students. Cosby became “America’s Dad” during this time.)

Even if FAMU continues to work with Cosby, lots of people in the black college community agree that they’re feeling betrayed by this charge.

The state of Ohio’s only public historically black university had already taken action in 2015, removing Cosby’s name from one of their buildings on campus. The Dayton Daily News reports that Bill and his wife Camille has donated more than $2 million to the university, though.

FAMU’s decision on the matter is likely to be announced on Friday, looking to cut ties or not with Cosby who had developed a friendship with former President Frederick Humphries in the mid-1980s, and donated thousands to the university and also awarded an honorary doctorate by Humphries in 1992. Current FAMU students and alumni say the historically black university shouldn’t have to pull the plug just yet, citing his work to help promote and give back to black colleges nationally.

But even if FAMU continues to work with Cosby, lots of people in the black college community agree that they’re feeling betrayed by this charge.

Update: After this editorial was written, FAMU officials released a statement saying that they’re thankful for the many contributions Cosby and his wife, Camille, has given to the black college over the years, adding that “Hundreds of FAMU students have benefited significantly from Drs. William and Camille Cosby’s gifts given to the university more than 20 years ago.” The Tallahassee Democrat also reports that FAMU is unlikely to cut ties with Cosby, not following several other universities that have distant themselves from the comedian.