Home / News / University of Pennsylvania Takes Away Steve Wynn’s Honors. And Bill Cosby’s, Too.

University of Pennsylvania Takes Away Steve Wynn’s Honors. And Bill Cosby’s, Too.

Several universities also said they would revoke honorary degrees to the television news personality Charlie Rose.

Large contributions to universities often come with the expectation that the donor’s name will be prominently displayed on a building, so the accusations against Mr. Wynn presented Penn, an Ivy League school in Philadelphia, with a particular conundrum.

Students had already begun making their feelings known about Wynn Commons, an outdoor area on campus named for Mr. Wynn after he made a $7.5 million donation in 1995. A protest was planned for Friday, and earlier this week, the word “Wynn” was vandalized with black paint. The university quickly covered it up with plywood, with only the word “Commons” remaining visible.

In an email to the campus community, the university president, Amy Gutmann, and the chairman of its board of trustees, David L. Cohen, said Penn had made the decision because “the nature, severity, and extent of these allegations, and the patterns of abusive behavior they describe, involve acts and conduct that are inimical to the core values of our university.”

But that left the issue of Mr. Cosby. Allegations against Mr. Cosby, who faces criminal charges as well as lawsuits, have included claims that he drugged women to have sex with them, and that he sexually assaulted a woman on Penn’s campus during the Penn Relays track meet, where he was officiating in 2004.

In 2015, the university rebuffed calls to revoke Mr. Cosby’s honorary degree. At that time, the university said that while the allegations against Mr. Cosby were deeply troubling, “it is not our practice to rescind honorary degrees.”

Before Thursday, Penn had not rescinded an honorary degree in a century, since it took similar action against Kaiser Wilhelm II and Ambassador Johann Heinrich von Bernstorff of Germany during World War I.


A board covered the vandalized “Wynn” on Thursday at the University of Pennsylvania.

Jon Hurdle

In explaining the university’s decision, which was made by an executive committee of the board of trustees, Dr. Gutmann and Mr. Cohen wrote that once the committee decided that Mr. Wynn’s honorary degree, bestowed in 2006, needed to be revoked, it had to do the same with Mr. Cosby’s 1990 honor.

“The decision to remove the name Wynn Commons could not be made independently of considering the other ways in which the university had previously recognized Mr. Wynn,” the email said. “It became necessary, therefore, to consider the appropriateness of Mr. Wynn’s honorary degree and any other honorifics Penn had previously bestowed.”

“That decision in turn made it also clear that the multiple and highly credible charges involving Bill Cosby warranted the same action.”

A spokesman for Mr. Cosby, who faces a retrial on sexual assault charges in Pennsylvania in the spring, did not respond to a message seeking comment. A spokesman for Mr. Wynn said he would have no comment.

While Mr. Wynn has denied the allegations, first reported last week by The Wall Street Journal, he resigned his position as finance chairman for the Republican National Committee. His company, Wynn Resorts, has formed a committee to investigate the accusations, and gaming regulators in both Nevada and Massachusetts are also investigating.

The Republican National Committee said it would not return Mr. Wynn’s contributions unless he were found guilty of the accusations, though the Republican Governors Association and several Republican members of Congress have returned his money or donated the amounts to charity.

The University of Iowa announced plans this week to remove Mr. Wynn’s name from the school’s Institute for Vision Research, which Mr. Wynn helped fund with a $25 million donation in 2013.

On campus Thursday, some students took photographs of the newly altered “Commons” sign, with traces of black spray paint still visible around the plywood covering Mr. Wynn’s name.

Amanda Silberling, 21, a senior from Boca Raton, Fla., who has led campus activism on sexual assault issues, said that the school had become more attuned recently to concerns about sexual misconduct.

“I think there’s definitely been a lot more dialogue on campus in the last few years,” she said, “about what role institutions like Penn play in setting examples for students and showing what a moral and ethical response to issues like this are.”

As for Mr. Cosby, she said, revoking his honorary degree was a welcome gesture, even though it was late.

Ben Wasman, 19, a freshman, applauded the university for making what he called a “big statement” recognizing the #MeToo movement.

“Now that there’s somebody directly affiliated with the university, with their name all over the place,” he said, “they finally realize that change needs to be made, and we should probably go back and revoke Cosby’s too.”

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News credit : Nytimes

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