Bill Cosby has stepped down from the board of trustees of Temple University amid a swirl of sexual assault allegations, according to a statement released by the university.
Cosby, 77, who attended Temple, has served on its board for more than three decades.
“I have always been proud of my association with Temple University,” Cosby said in the statement. “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.”
Temple has been the target of an online petition with a thousand people asking it to oust Cosby from its board. The entertainer has long been a presence on the Philadelphia campus where he routinely speaks at commencement ceremonies and has hosted a convocation class for freshmen called “Cosby 101.”
Cosby settled a civil lawsuit with the director of operations for Temple’s women’s basketball team in 2007 over an alleged assault, but he kept his seat on the university’s board.
As more than a dozen women in recent weeks have accused Cosby of drugging and assaulting them, the university stood by him. Cosby has not been charged with any crimes and has said he will not answer his accusers’ claims.
On Monday, Temple released a statement saying it “accepts Dr. Cosby’s resignation from the board and thanks him for his service to the university.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer first reported the news.
Much of Cosby’s philanthropic work has been focused on higher education, and he has strong relationships with universities across the country. He also recently stepped down from his position as honorary co-chair of a $300 million fundraising campaign at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he earned two graduate degrees.
The move away from Cosby comes on the heels of a report in the Jackson Sun that Freed-Hardeman University, a small Christian university in Henderson, Tenn., asked Ben Carson to step in as keynote speaker, replacing Cosby, who had been scheduled to headline its 50th annual benefit dinner Dec. 5.
“As important as this event is to our students, we know that names we have seen in the media represent real people who will be affected long after FHU’s dinner has passed,” Freed-Hardeman President Joe Wiley told the Sun. “Please join us in praying for healing and peace for those involved.”
Spelman College, recipient of Cosby’s most significant financial contribution, is not responding to the allegations levied against him. He and his wife, Camille, donated $20 million to the Atlanta institution in the late 1980s. It was the largest single contribution to a historically black university. Two of the Cosbys’ daughters attended Spelman.
The college president released a statement to the university stating its position as the negative news has dogged its benefactor.
“The College’s primary connection with the Cosby family is the Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Ed.D. Academic Center, which opened at Spelman College in 1996. At the time, an endowed professorship named for Drs. Cosby was also established to support visiting scholars. . . . The academic center and endowed professorship were funded through a philanthropic commitment from the Cosby family made more than 25 years ago, and at this time there are no discussions regarding changes to the terms of the gift.”
Spelman’s president, Beverly Daniel Tatum, also noted that the institution does “not condone sexual violence in any form” and that the academic center funded by the Cosbys’ donation is named for Camille Cosby.