The Temple University Faculty Senate has passed a motion that "condemns" Bill Cosby in connection with the sexual assault allegations against him and board of trustees chairman Patrick O'Connor for representing him while they both served as university trustees.
The faculty vote comes amid ongoing criticism of the university for failing to denounce Cosby, accused of sexually assaulting dozens of women over several decades, Art Hochner, president of the Temple faculty union, said Wednesday.
The motion also called on university president Neil Theobald and the university trustees to withdraw Cosby's honorary degree. Last year Cosby stepped down as a Temple trustee, a seat he held since 1982.
University spokesman Raymond Betzner downplayed the importance of the faculty vote, saying that only a small number of faculty participated.
"With fewer than 40 faculty attending, many of whom were not elected representative senators, it raises questions about whether the resolutions passed can be considered representative of the opinions of a significant portion of the more than 2,000 full-time Temple faculty," Betzner said.
Hochner said the faculty motion to condemn Cosby and O'Connor and to withdraw Cosby's honorary degree came on a voice vote of fewer than 100 Temple faculty Friday afternoon.
Some said it was time for the university to take a stronger stance on the conduct of both Cosby and O'Connor.
"It is clear that the faculty overwhelmingly agree that it is in the best interests of the Temple University community that O'Connor step down and that Cosby's honorary doctorate be revoked," said Joyce Lindorff, professor of keyboard studies at Temple's Boyer College of Music and Dance.
O'Connor, a founder of the Center City law firm of Cozen O'Connor, defended Cosby in a lawsuit 10 years ago filed by a former Temple employee who accused Cosby of drugging and then sexually assaulting her in his Cheltenham mansion in January 2004. Hochner said it was a conflict of interest for O'Connor to represent Cosby in the lawsuit while also serving as a Temple trustee.
O'Connor did not return a reporter's call Wednesday requesting comment. Previously, he has said Cosby had a right to counsel and he had a right to make a living as a lawyer.
"As an attorney, he had to make a decision about whether he was going to represent Cosby with the vigorous defense he was entitled to or whether he was going to represent the university," Hochner said. "He chose to do both. One of the things we talk about and think about in the business school is ethics and I have talked to a number of professors who teach that course and they are appalled at Temple's lack of ethics in this matter."
Marina Angel, a Temple law school professor who drafted the motion, said O'Connor should step down as chairman of the university's board.
"Passage of the motion should lead to the withdrawal of Cosby's honorary degree and the resignation of O'Connor from Temple's board of trustees," Angel said.
Accusations of sexual misconduct against Cosby had been percolating for years, but gained traction in 2005 when Andrea Constand, the former director of operations for the Temple women's basketball program, sued Cosby, accusing him of assaulting her at his home during a 2004 meeting. According to Constand's complaint, Cosby gave her what he said was an herbal remedy but was actually a narcotic that left her immobile on his couch while he assaulted her.
The case was settled and an earlier criminal investigation by then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. ended without charges against Cosby.
The Constand case drew renewed attention this year when many other allegations of sexual misconduct against Cosby emerged and U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno in Philadelphia, acting on a request from the Associated Press, unsealed a deposition Cosby gave a decade ago in the Constand case.
In the deposition, Cosby acknowledged giving Quaaludes, a powerful sedative, to one woman before having sex.
Constand settled her case confidentially in 2006 against Cosby. In October of this year, she sued Castor, who had investigated the allegations in 2005 and chose not to prosecute. Constand claimed Castor defamed her in an Associated Press article in October by saying she had enhanced her story in exchanges in 2005 with detectives from his office investigating her allegations.
This summer, the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office quietly reopened its investigation of Constand's allegations, raising the prospect that Cosby may yet be indicted.
Castor's handling of the case became a central issue in the Montgomery County district attorney's race this year, in which Castor ran to regain his former job against Kevin Steele. Steele hammered Castor during the campaign, criticizing him for failing to make a case against Cosby, and last month won the election.