Howard University is addressing Phylicia Rashad’s supportive comments of Bill Cosby following the disgraced comedian’s Wednesday release from prison.
Rashad, who was recently appointed as dean of Howard’s College of Fine Arts, took to Twitter following news of Cosby’s release on Wednesday afternoon, writing, “FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted — a miscarriage of justice is corrected!”
Following backlash, Rashad posted a follow-up tweet hours later, saying she supports survivors of sexual assault coming forward, and “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,” she added.
Rashad, who starred alongside Cosby as his TV wife on both “The Cosby Show” and “Cosby,” did not appear to retract her previous support of his overturned conviction.
Following Rashad’s remarks, Howard University, the historically Black college where Rashad was appointed as dean in May 2021, released a statement acknowledging her Twitter posts.
“Survivors of sexual assault will always be our priority,” the university’s statement begins. “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. 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 will live up to this sacred commitment.”
Howard University’s statement, too, received criticism from Twitter users who blasted the response and began calling for Rashad to be fired.
“Her personal reflection would not help students who have or are being sexually abused. She advocated for a sexual abuser,” wrote one user. “She should not be working with students. Your faculty needs to be trustworthy and this shows she is not. If you care about your students, you will fire her.”
“This is honestly making me [really] sad,” another tweeted. “As a theater major I no longer feel comfortable enrolling there this fall.”
Rashad’s initial remarks came shortly after Cosby’s sex assault conviction was overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, citing an agreement with a previous prosecutor that prevented him from being charged in the case. Cosby had served more than two years of a three- to 10-year sentence at a Pennsylvania prison following his 2018 conviction for drugging and violating Temple University sports administrator Andrea Constand in 2004.
Rashad was appointed as dean of Howard University’s College of Fine Arts in May, the university previously announced. The actress, an alumna of Howard, is scheduled to begin her tenure Thursday.
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