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Ubiñas: Cosby resigns from Temple, but Temple still has work to do

Bill Cosby is out, but Temple still needs to review its response to sexual assaults.

File photo: Bill Cosby welcomes Temple freshmen and transfer students at a new student convocation that had been dubbed "Cosby 101" at the Liacouras Center. (Daily News Photo / Jessica Griffin)
File photo: Bill Cosby welcomes Temple freshmen and transfer students at a new student convocation that had been dubbed "Cosby 101" at the Liacouras Center. (Daily News Photo / Jessica Griffin)Read more

FINALLY, it was Bill Cosby who put Temple University out of its misery.

More than a month after a comedian's comments on Cosby allegedly being a rapist went viral and long after others distanced themselves from the comedian amid increasing allegations of rape, Temple continued to stand by their Pudding Pop man.

And then yesterday, Cosby did the necessary deed himself and resigned from Temple's Board of Trustees, a seat he held for 32 years.

"I have always been proud of my association with Temple University. I have always wanted to do what would be in the best interests of the university and its students. As a result, I have tendered my resignation from the Temple University Board of Trustees," he said in a statement released by the university.

For its part, Temple's official response was as unsatisfying as its support was inconceivable while 20 women accused their most famous alumnus of rape.

"The Board of Trustees accepts Dr. Cosby's resignation from the board and thanks him for his service to the university."

Boom. One tainted trustee down. At least one more that somebody seriously needs to talk to.

In case you missed it, attorney and former state Sen. Robert Rovner did some serious mental gymnastics in an Inquirer story days before Cosby's resignation, when he seemingly gave his buddy a pass.

Of the women accusing Cosby of rape, Rovner reportedly said: "I have mixed emotions because I do have feelings for any of the women who made accusations, but on the other hand, there are two sides to every story. Some of them made accusations 15 to 20 years later. Some of them may have tried to use Bill Cosby to get into show business."

He wasn't done.

On his pal, Cosby, whom Rovner called a "role model," he blithely responded: "In America, people are innocent until proven guilty. I'll give my friend Bill Cosby the benefit of the doubt. . . . Therefore, I would not throw him under the bus."

Right. Better to throw alleged victims of sexual abuse under the bus than a guy with a fat checkbook who gives the university priceless free publicity with those Temple sweatshirts he's always wearing.

As a trustee of the university, shouldn't Rovner have a higher standard on protecting the institution than granting a buddy the "benefit of the doubt"?

I wanted to ask him, but he didn't return my call. And while I waited, Cosby fell on his sword - which gives the university zero credit for doing the right thing. It does, however, allow it to get back to the necessary work of dealing with sexual assaults on campus.

Temple is one of 55 colleges under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for allegedly mishandling students' sexual-assault claims, a violation of the Title IX federal statute.

Hours before Cosby resigned, I spoke with Harmony Rodriguez, one of the Title IX complainants at Temple. Given how her rape was handled, she wasn't surprised by Temple's misguided support of Cosby. Rovner's comments, she added, only reinforce her view that there's a systematic insensitivity to sexual-assault victims at Temple.

"While from the outside Bill Cosby and campus rapes may not seem connected, the reaction definitely is," Rodriguez said. "Temple University officials don't appreciate the seriousness of this issue."

Considering what a charitable bloke Rovner seems to be, I am also willing to give Rovner the benefit of the doubt. But since he didn't return my call, I was left with news archives to try to understand his tone-deaf response to such disgusting allegations.

Cosby, for what it's worth, has never been charged criminally, and continues to deny the allegations, though he settled a civil suit brought by a former Temple University employee who said Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in 2004 in his home in Cheltenham Township. Temple University spokesman Ray Betzner also didn't return a call and email.

According to news reports, Rovner was acquitted in 1975 of tax evasion and extortion charges. Four years later, he collected a fat and controversial $130,000 commission for helping a health-insurance company get the business of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police. Later he drew the state Judicial Inquiry and Review Board's attention for his part in organizing free bus trips to Atlantic City casinos for Bucks County district justices.

All that is to say that his judgment may be a little off. And that's the last thing Temple needs right now. This fall, the university formed a committee to review how it handles sexual misconduct on campus.

According to the university's Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, the number of sexual offenses has risen. Last year, there were eight sex offenses on its main campus. Two more were reported off campus, and one on public property. In 2012, according to a story in the Temple News, there was one sex offense listed: a forcible rape that took place in a residence hall.

"I'm happy that [Cosby] is gone; he didn't deserve to be a trustee," Rodriguez said, "but I hope that Robert Rovner also resigns. They're both symbolic of the hostile environment and rape culture at Temple."

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